Spider Silk: Fusing Nature and Technology

When you see a spider web what comes to mind? The beauty and intricate design, how a spider delicately dangles as it artfully spins its web, how it competitively and fiercely wraps its prey or how quickly it can be swept away?

Although spider silk looks delicate, is a super-material, five times stronger that steel and more elastic than rubber bands, which suggest some amazing use cases. It only makes sense that some of the top fitness and outdoor apparel companies are exploring ways to use technology to create synthetic spider silk to replicate its strength for clothing that can combat the extreme weather that mother nature sends our way.

Complementing Strengths through Collaboration

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There are thousands of synthetic materials in the world so this should be pretty easy right? Not exactly, spider silk proteins are complex – some companies have recreated it only to then grapple with designing new systems and technology to transform the strands into threads and ultimately fizzling out.

Often times larger companies can’t move fast enough to uncover the next emerging technology and startups don’t always have the ability to scale the product with a supporting go-to-market strategy and reliable brand – that’s when it comes to solid collaborations, between the brightest minds of the startup world and the most forward looking brands to complement each other’s strengths.

Japan-based biotech firm Spiber, Inc. caught the eye of The North Face where they collaborated to develop the “Moon Parka” prototype the world’s first coat made with artificial spider silk. The North Face “Moon Parka,” is based on the existing “Antarctica Parka” design. The “Moon Parka” is made out QMONOS, a fiber made from bioengineered bacteria that looks and feels like synthetic spider silk, developed by Spiber Inc. and will be available later this year in Tokyo’s posh Harajuku fashion district retailing $1000 USD.

Another impressive partnership was between Patagonia and the California-based biotechnology firm Bolt Threads with the goal to design and develop products made from its proprietary spider silk-inspired fibers and textiles.

In addition to the collaboration with Patagonia, Bolt Threads has secured an additional $50 million in financing from investors, further supporting their commitment to the advancement of spider silk technologies.

Both collaborations marry solid outdoor apparel brands and ability to scale with upcoming startups technology to create a team that complements each other for success.

Being Environmentally Sound

While synthetic fabrics such as polyester, nylon and others transformed the fashion industry in the last century, it has come at a cost with toxic implications to the environment.

Spider silk is not derived from petroleum and does not release a large volume of carbon dioxides in the manufacturing process, this is not the case for polyester or nylon.

By nature of the process to create synthetic spider silk, companies are already investing in creating a more environmentally sound future.

What’s next?

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What does the future hold for spider silk technology, the possibilities are endless, from the immediate opportunities such durable outdoor sporting apparel, camping gear, automotive interiors to everyday items such as laptop covers are just around the corner.

It will be interesting to see how all designers explore and experiment with synthetic spider silk to revolutionize how we produce and use textiles. Products such as baby carriers, ropes, rugby uniforms, chef accessories all come to mind however, how will the runway look for major designers come fashion week?  Rain coats, blazers, trousers, shirts and hats. Imagine the great outdoors meets modern, urban chic ultimately fusing nature and technology in a way that is mindful of our environment.

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