Stella McCartney Finds Eco-Inspiration With Bolt Threads

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Stella McCartney x Bolt Threads

British designer Stella McCartney has long been a champion of ethical fashion, sourcing materials that didn’t harm the planet, animals or people. This year she found an ideal partner in Bolt Threads, a California-based biotech company developing sustainable materials, specializing in fibers based on proteins found in nature, such as vegan-friendly silk made from yeast. “This is truly a moment to celebrate technology and the future of fashion,” as McCartney says.

A look at @stellamccartney's design process with our Microsilk™

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“When I first started in fashion design I never thought there would be a day like this, where we would arrive with such an important moment when technology is fused with fashion, one of the most harmful industries to the environment,” said McCartney in announcing the partnership in July.

“Now is the time to search for answers, for alternatives. For me, I’ve always struggled with the use of silk and finding Bolt has been a life-changing and career-changing moment for me.”

The union of art and science – a look into our process with @stellamccartney.

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The initial product from the collaboration is a unique gold shift dress commissioned for the Museum of Modern Art’s design exhibition, “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” open now through January 28.

The custom knitted one-of-a-kind dress is made entirely of Bolt’s proprietary protein-based yarn inspired by spider silk.

The company’s FAQ explains:

“No spiders are harmed in the making of Bolt Threads Engineered Silk fibers! In fact, there are no spiders at all in the process. We originally studied real spiders’ silk, to understand the relationship between the spiders’ DNA and the characteristics of the fibers they make. Today’s technology allows us to make those proteins without using spiders—which is a big relief to the arachnophobes among us.

“We already actually producing our Engineered Silk fibers at commercial scale, we are doing it at a cost that makes it viable for widespread use in consumer products such as apparel. No one else has done that.

“Our yeast produce silk protein in a liquid form during fermentation—very much like the beer-making process. After some processing, the liquid silk protein can be turned into fiber through wet-spinning, which is the same way fibers like acrylic and rayon are made. The main input in our fiber-making process is sugar from plants that are grown, harvested and replanted. Compare this to polyesters which are made from petroleum. Currently, more than 60% of textiles are made of polyester and other petroleum-derived fibers.”

McCartney’s brand is vegetarian and more than 50 percent of her women’s collection is made from sustainable material. The collaboration with Bolt Threads amplifies her eco message and signals a milestone for the fashion industry as a whole as it creates an alternative to reliance on petrochemicals, is cruelty-free and reduces the toll on the environment.

“From the day we founded Bolt Threads, we’ve dreamt of partnering with Stella McCartney,” Dan Widmaier, CEO of Bolt Threads told Forbes. “Not only does she have an unparalleled aesthetic, but her values and pioneering sustainable fashion align perfectly with our vision for the future of fashion.”

Bolt Threads, which is now listed on NASDAQ and based in a new 11,000 sq ft fiber spinning facility is working on closed-loop processes for manufacturing, using green chemistry practices.

The company announced a sustainable materials development partnership with Patagonia in 2016 and this year created a partnership with ocean plastic recycler Parley for the Oceans.

McCartney launched her eponymous luxury lifestyle brand in 2001 in a 50/50 partnership with Kering, and has become a fashion legend who has designed the uniforms for Team Great Britain for the Olympics and awarded the Order of the British Empire in 2013.

In keeping with the vegetarianism of her family (Paul and Linda McCartney) does not use any leather or fur in her designs and takes responsibility for the resources it uses and the impact it on the environment. Her collections are distributed in 77 countries through 863 specialty shops, and department stores, and shipping to 100 countries online.

According to the 2015 documentary, The True Cost, we consume 80 billion pieces of clothing a year—and it’s McCartney’s purpose to change the global apparel industry and make it more ethical, sustainable and conscientious.

As she told Fast Company, “the way things are done, the fabrics used—they haven’t changed in a century. Silk has been made the same way for 6,000 years! There’s a resistance to innovation. I’m not just a fashion designer. I’m a businesswoman. In some ways, I feel more connected with architects and product designers. This is not about public relations. My intention is to create real change in an industry that desperately needs it.”

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