Pangaia Lab has co-created a sweatshirt made from fermented biomass material as it moves closer to fully closing the loop on fashion.
In its newest partnership, U.K.-based materials science platform Pangaia has teamed up with Spiber, a Japanese biotechnology startup, on a first-of-its-kind product, The NXT GEN Hoodie powered by Spiber’s Brewed Protein. The protein is a fermented biomass material made from a variety of sugarcane. The limited-edition hoodie was two years in the making and blends Spiber’s novel biotech with organic cotton.
According to Pangaia, the production process can work with sugars made from a variety of feedstocks, including sucrose, which is extracted from sugarcane and sugar beet, among other sources, and dextrose, which is processed from plants including corn and cassava.
The NXT GEN Hoodie
The breakthrough launch marks Pangaia Lab’s fourth capsule and the first in a multi-year agreement between Pangaia Lab—Pangaia’s discovery platform—and Spiber. The companies say the partnership comes out of a mutual interest in finding bio-based alternatives to both fossil fuel and animal-based materials.
“PANGAIA and Spiber met multiple years ago and came together around the shared conviction that biofabrication could offer the fashion industry much more responsible solutions, Dr. Amanda Parkes, Pangaia’s Chief Innovation Officer told Ethos via email.
“Through the process, we quickly realized that both companies were nimble and eager to bring this hoodie to life through Pangaia Lab and show the cutting-edge technology is ready to scale with the first commercially available apparel products,” she said.
The black hoodie contains a detailed explanation of its origins—Spiber’s 15 years of research—and its “biological building blocks” that can be used across industries including applications in aerospace and medicine.
Parkes says the Brewed Protein’s biofabricated fibers will “disrupt” the way fabrics are created, ushering in a new era for fashion that shifts brands away from carbon-polluting materials.
“Not many brands have the capabilities and patience to harness a completely new material like Brewed Protein fiber to create a first-of-a-kind product,” Kenji Higashi, Spiber Head of Business Development, Sales & Sustainability said in a statement. “It has been a great experience working with the Pangaia team, whose members brought world class technical expertise and scientific insight to our joint project, and whose mission to enable innovative solutions for a more sustainable world overlaps with our own.”
According to Spiber, it’s able to modify the features of its protein materials from the molecular level. This, it says, enables luxury brands, or brands who rely on animal-based materials, that are looking for more environmentally and ethically-conscious solutions to have a durable and “compelling” option that can contribute to the industry in a variety of different ways.
For the hoodie launch, sugars are produced overseas and processed in Japan, Pangaia says. For its commercial production plant in Thailand, it sources locally harvested Bonsucro certified sugarcane; Spiber is a member of Bonsucro, a sugarcane platform that ensures traceability and reduces the negative environmental and social impacts compared to non-certified sugar.
Longer-term, the process would involve more agricultural byproducts such as biomass. Pangaia says it is scaling up its use of these materials. It’s also working on a circular system it’s calling Biosphere Circulation.
This project would create a resource circulation ecosystem where products are made from materials that can be recycled in the biosphere including cellulose-based materials such as cotton, linen, and rayon; and protein-based materials such as silk, wool, and Brewed Protein materials. The products would offer a solution to garment waste. Spiber’s technology would allow for upcycling the waste into a raw material.
One area of exploration is a cashmere that does not rely on animals. Increasing demand for cashmere, a wool obtained from cashmere and pashmina goats, has been driving snow leopard decline in Asia as well as putting pressure on natural resources.
According to Pangaia, Brewed Protein could offer a solution—a material that’s derived from natural ingredients without animal or fossil fuels and has a feel similar to the luxury material.
It says while it isn’t aiming to create an identical analog, with natural materials it can create the texture and touch of something like cashmere that petrochemical materials such as polyester can’t recreate.
Spiber estimates its Brewed Protein fibers can do this at a fraction of the environmental impact of synthetics as well, reducing emissions and water usage by more than 80 percent.
The announcement follows of string of firsts for Pangaia; in April it launched into the food category with its Super Super Bars. “This launch marks a key moment for the food industry, combining bio-tech, food science, nature, and functional nutrition into convenient and highly delicious products that are carbon neutral,” the brand said in a statement.
That launch came on the heels of joining forces with Ecovative, the New York-based mycelium tech company working to replace foam and leather products with sustainable mycelium—the root structure of mushrooms. Ecovative says it can produce sustainable materials at scale that can replace foam materials in shoes as well as plastic, Styrofoam, and other materials. It’s also in the race to replace leather, a category that’s seen interest from luxury labels including Stella McCartney, Hermès, and Alexander McQueen, among others.
Only 200 of Pangaia’s NXT GEN Hoodie will be available on the Pangaia website for $395 in sizes XXS-XXL. The sweatshirt will also be displayed at the Biofabricate Summit in New York City starting June 6.