Bolt Threads: The Future of Fashion

Sustainability is the future. Here’s a statement you’ve probably heard one too many times. Sustainability in fashion industry, like in any other sector, is not unaffected by the global threats such as climate change, vulnerable economic conditions, consumer behaviour, lack of resources. The biggest challenge to the fashion industry lies in understanding these threats and taking fitting actions to protect its future, protect the environment and improve conditions in the global industry chain. The textile industry is among the dirtiest industries on the planet— according to the World Bank, 20% of water pollution globally results from textile processing. Fashion designers have always understood the importance of quality textiles. Consumers, on the other hand, seem to care more about the end product— a garment as a whole— focusing on design, color, fit and feel. However, with rise in awareness about sustainable lifestyle, consumers today are getting more aware about the benefits of slow-fashion. The market, naturally, is shifting towards what consumers want offering more of sustainable classic pieces as opposed to fleeting seasonal trends.

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The future of fashion as we know it is about to change in a drastic way. Smart textiles are the new black! They are developed with the use of new technologies and offer a new type of behaviour and functionality. Some are created to change color, some to help regulate body temperature and control muscle vibration, and some to provide additional skin moisture, designed with and anti-aging properties. The possibilities are endless! What makes smart textiles revolutionary is that they have the ability to communicate, transform, conduct energy, and grow. Smart textiles are paving the way for the change in the fashion industry, and human-made spider silk is just one of the amazing new textiles that is spinning the future of fashion. Bolt Threads is a US based company that has developed technology to replicate spider-produced silk fibers known for high tensile strength, elasticity, softness and durability. Spoiler alert: No spiders are harmed in the production process. In fact, there are no spiders at all! Bolt Threads team studied real spiders’ silk to understand how the fibers are made. Today, the technology they use allows them to understand how spiders make silk and recreate the process without the use of actual spiders. Although it is called spider silk, the textile is actually made of sugar, water, salts and yeast. The yeast they use produces silk protein in a liquid form during fermentation— similar to the beer-making process. After processing, the liquid silk protein is turned into fiber through wet-spinning. Is your head spinning yet?

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How does this technology impact the environment, you ask? At Bolt Threads, they are committed to developing products with the lowest possible environmental footprint. Notwithstanding their commitment to produce textiles that contain no DNA and no genetically modified organisms, the sugar used for production comes from genetically modified corn, hence marking their products as GMO. Thus far, they have successfully knitted and weaved their one-of-a-kind 100% protein fibers into different lightweight, water-resistant garments. In March they’ve launched the world’s first ever human-made spider silk knit necktie. Recently the company partnered with the most sustainable fashion designer of ’em all, Stella McCartney who designed a custom knitted gold dress as a modern interpretation of the classic shift dress made entirely of protein-based yarn inspired by spider silk. It has been made using brilliant golden Bolt yarn.

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This is just the tip of the iceberg. Surely we will witness the emergence of more and more companies and designers who will create amazingly innovative smart textiles and develop new technology that will assuredly change the way we think of fashion, and the way we live. Forever.

Photo credit: Bolt Threads, Quartz