Outerwear brands Patagonia and North Face are embracing the future of ethical, durable clothing. In the past few years, both brands have experimented with the use of vegan spider silk.
Back in 2015, the North Face collaborated with Spiber — a Japanese biotechnology company that creates spider silk without a need for the insect itself — to create a prototype jacket. The $1,000 gold-colored Moon Parka was sold only in Japan, according to Future.
Spiber noted on its website at the time, “this marks a world first for the production of a garment made with synthetic protein materials on industrial manufacturing-line technology.”
The material Spiber produces is named Qmonos, and it could help to transform the future of the sports outerwear industry. Petroleum-based fabrics like polyester and nylon are used frequently to make sportswear garments, but they come with significant environmental consequences.
Vegan spider silk on the other hand, made through complex microbial fermentation, could present an ethical and sustainable alternative.
“For decades now, many scientists have been drawn to the amazing mechanical properties of natural spider silk,” Daniel Meyer, who works for Spiber, told The Manual.
He continued, “It is the toughest known material, natural or otherwise. Toughness is a combination of both strength and extensibility, meaning that it can absorb an incredible amount of energy before breaking.”
Bolt Threads is another company that knows the true value and strength of vegan spider silk. It’s material, spun from the same proteins as a spider web, attracted the attention of Patagonia back in 2016, and the two companies signed a deal.
The publication noted, “Bolt’s fabric has similar qualities to conventional silk in that it will provide warmth and a softer feel, but it should be easier to wash and wear. For example, you won’t have to dry clean Bolt’s silk because it will have the durability to be washed in a machine.”
The lead time for the Patagonia spider silk jacket is currently unconfirmed. Back in 2016, Sue Levin, the chief marketing officer for Bolt Threads, told Outside Online, “we’re really not interested in talking about timelines. What we’re trying to do is make textiles for the next century.”