Fashion 4.0, No. 2: Raw Materials, Sci-Fi to Reality
Raw materials are the foundation of almost everything people consume – not the least of which is fashion – so it’s no wonder that materials innovation is a hot topic. Led by science and driven by an imperative to stem pollution and use of the planet’s natural resources, we’re seeing inventions that just a few years ago seemed “far-fetched," like something out of a sci-fi movie.
There’s lab-grown spider silk and leather-like textiles made from mushroom cells created by California biotech startup Bolt Threads; outerwear fabric grown from fermented protein particles at 12-year-old Japan-based Spiber Inc., and yeast-based biolplastic developed by scientists with the Finnish design studio Aivan.
In addition to being animal-friendly, these materials don’t require large amounts of land to produce. We founded Variant with “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” top of mind, so we endeavor to use materials from many sources, from sustainable and cruelty-free plant and animal fibers to bio-tech alternatives and those made from things that people normally throw away (aka "up cycling"). On our recent visit to fiber manufacturer and innovator Unifi in North Carolina, we found some amazing yarns made from recycled nylon carpets.
We also admire what Bloom Algae Foam cofounder and SoCal native Rob Falken is doing to collect toxic green-blue algae biomass from waste streams in the U.S. and Asia and convert it into a polymer to produce all kinds of foam-based products, from sneaker soles to surfboard traction pads.
As part of the fashion-tech startup community, we wholeheartedly support these visionaries bringing products to market because it's the only way that they can flourish, and continue to grow and innovate. Working together helps bring us all closer to our goal near-zero environmental impact.
As our founder and CEO Garrett Gerson likes to say, “Everything is ‘far-fetched’ until it becomes mainstream.” There might only be one successful company out of every 100 that launch, but we support them all because you never know which one could be the breakout.
Our friend and mentor Peter Diamandis, founder and chairman of XPRIZE Foundation and Abundance 360, once told us, “The day before something is truly a breakthrough, it's a crazy idea.”
It’s the same ethos behind the limited-edition Moon Parka developed for The North Face by Japanese sports apparel manufacturer Goldwin and Spiber. Its name refers to “shooting for the moon," or attempting an extraordinarily difficult task that can also have an extraordinary impact.
Pursuing dreams isn’t always easy. As we grow the Variant platform -- empowering individuals and brands to express themselves through tech-enabled, customized fashion -- our mission remains clear: to make desirable and lasting pieces with mindful manufacturing practices.
The Variant Team
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