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Editor's pick product sustainability

Bolt Threads and Stella McCartney introduce mushroom leather handbag

Mylo leather by Bolt Threads
Mylo leather by Bolt Threads

Material startup Bolt Threads has introduced Mylo, a new leather material made from mycelium, the roots of a mushroom. For this textile innovation the company is continuing its work with designer Stella McCartney, who is launching a new style of the iconic Falabella handbag made from the innovation.

Bolt Threads has developed the patented leather by creating optimal growing conditions for mycelium cells to self-assemble into an animal leather-like material, meaning it can be produced in days rather than years.

The textile was developed in collaboration with Ecovative, a New York-based startup that had initially created the mushroom technology for packaging. It is not only sustainable from a raw material point of view, but can also be dyed with tea, which has long been a natural dyeing agent.

It’s the right time to show the world that we are more than just spider silk, Dan Widmaier, Bolt Threads’ co-founder and CEO, told us. Widmaier, who has a PhD in chemistry and chemical biology, is constantly developing things with his team in the company’s lab at a small scale, and leather and silk are just the beginning.

He refers to Bolt Threads as becoming a “platform” that can launch an infinite number of new materials inspired by the endless opportunities in nature.”There’s a huge ability to have an impact here,” he says, with relation to the change such new materials can make on sustainability and the environment. His tagline is “better materials for a better world”, which he refers to as critical for the globe’s growing population and increasing middle class.

The Stella McCartney Falabella bag made from Mylo leather by Bolt Threads
The Stella McCartney Falabella bag made from Mylo leather by Bolt Threads

The Stella McCartney handbag made from Mylo will be on display in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum’s “Fashioned from Nature” exhibit from April 21.  McCartney has no plans of putting the handbag on sale as yet, though her excitement towards investigating sustainable technologies is strong: “Once you take that technology and innovation and you marry it with luxury fashion and design and creativity, there’s no end to what magical madness you can create,” she told Forbes.

Bolt Threads’ own version of a Mylo leather handbag will be available for preorder in June.

This is Bolt Threads’ second material launch, having introduced Microsilk, a manmade spider silk produced in a lab in 2017. To showcase the material’s potential, the composition of which is meant to be stronger than steel but softer than a cloud, the startup launched a necktie and a hat. It followed that by introducing its partnership with McCartney via a dress made from the material that showcased the same level of fluidity and drapery as original silk. This was part of an exhibition at the MoMa in New York in October last year.

Want to know more? At this year’s SXSW, our chief intelligence officer Rachel Arthur spoke to CEO Widmaier on how his company’s innovations are driving the future of sustainable fashion for our TheCurrent Innovators podcast. 

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Editor's pick product sustainability technology

Levi’s revolutionizes finishing process, driving more sustainable supply chain

Levi's Project F.L.X.
Levi’s Project F.L.X.

Levi’s has announced Project F.L.X. (future-led execution), an operating model that reinvents the denim finishing process, resulting in a more sustainable supply chain.

Developed by the label’s innovation arm, Eureka Lab, the initiative replaces a decades-old manual technique for finishing that the industry has adopted as a standard production method, which is not only chemically-reliant, but time-consuming and labour-intensive. At the heart of it, is a series of digital tools including a laser technology.

“30 years ago, jeans were only available in three shades: rinsed, stonewashed and bleached. Today those three shades have exploded into endless variations, all produced with very labor-intensive jobs and long lists of chemical formulations,” said Bart Sights, VP of technical innovation at Levi’s and head of the Eureka Innovation Lab. “We’re designing a cleaner jean for the planet and the people who make Levi’s jeans, and we’re doing it on a scale that no one else has achieved to date.”

Developed in house, Project F.L.X. also allows the brand to considerably reduce production times and as a result, time to market. For instance, it cuts finishing time dramatically – from two to three pairs per hour to 90 seconds per garment, followed by a final wash cycle. Its on-demand production also means it can delay final product commitments until much later in the production process, reducing lead times by more than six months to in some instances, only a few days.

Meanwhile the brand’s designers have been given a new video game-like software that allows them to build new styles on an iPad. They can then digitise the finished design with photo-realistic quality and send the digital files directly to a vendor for mass manufacturing, thus also cutting R&D times considerably. With this technique, the process of prototyping a pair of jeans has been reduced to only three steps, from between 12 to 18 steps prior.

“With this new model, we can deliver the authentic and iconic products we’re known for in an incredibly responsive and responsible way,” said Liz O’Neill, SVP and chief supply chain officer for the brand. “The advanced imaging capability is a game-changer for us, and something that has eluded our industry for years.”

Levi's Project F.L.X.
Levi’s Project F.L.X.

From a sustainability standpoint, the model is a step forward in achieving the company’s commitment to zero discharge of chemicals by 2020 because it accelerates the elimination of many chemical formulations that Levi’s has promised to “phase out”.

It is also expected to reduce textile waste by being more responsive to demand, and accurately only producing what the market needs. As for saving water, the company has already proved it can use nearly 100% recycled water in the final manufacturing stages, and is exploring how to roll out this recycling capability more broadly over time.

To help unlock the sustainable benefits that the new digital capability can enable in the design and development of garments, Levi’s has worked with Jeanologia, a leader in eco-efficient solutions for fabric and garment finishing since 1993.