The use of vegan, next-gen and other Earth-friendly materials is not a fad. Without wishing to get too cynical – that’s just not what we do here – there are plenty of fashion brands working under the guise of sustainability to sell more stuff: a touch of recycled plastic here, a dash of upcycled cotton there. But a small percentage of recycled materials does not offset the impact of using tons of virgin materials. Products last longer than a PR headline.
It’s all a question of commitment. How committed are brands to reducing their impact on the planet? Materials startup Bolt Threads is asking that question to the brands it partners with. Its new Greener Pastures Pledge initiative requires brands to pledge to eliminate their use of virgin leather. In return, brands will get preferential access to Mylo, Bolt Threads’ mycelium-based alternative.
The pledge comes in response to fashion brands that are attempting to have their leather cake and eat it too. These brands believe that they can use alternative materials alongside virgin materials. Hermès, for example, is partnering with MycoWorks while also reinvesting in its leather supply chain. It’s the opinion of many experts now that if it’s not 100 percent, it’s not good enough (have a listen to our latest podcast with Natural Fiber Welding’s founder for more). Brands must look to eliminate materials such as virgin animal leather if we’re to reduce fashion’s impact on the planet.
It’s a practical as well as an ideological decision for Bolt Threads. Mycelium leather alternatives are in high demand and the supply of Mylo isn’t quite meeting that need yet. This initiative will help Bolt Threads focus on the brands it knows are dedicated to making long-lasting changes, and that will be coming back for more Mylo year on year.
On the subject of supply, Bolt Threads CEO and co-founder Dan Widmaier says: “We are actively in the process of scaling up our Mylo material, including moving into our commercial facility in the Netherlands that will have the capacity to produce millions of square feet in the coming years.”
The initiative comes with backing from Ganni which launched a wallet made with Mylo in June. Plenty of other brands have worked with the leather alternative including Stella McCartney, adidas and lululemon, which means we could be seeing some big names pledging to eliminate virgin leather very soon. And if big names commit then that should result in substantial reductions in animal leather use.
Of course, there are questions around the initiative – there always are, after all – chief among which is the fairly serious problem of just such how meaningful or impactful the pledge actually is. With Widmaier stating that “there is no timeframe requirement to be met — only the true intention and public commitment to phasing out or eliminating virgin leather from their supply chain,” brands could well use the pledge as a way to access Mylo without making great strides towards cutting out leather.
But, once again, cynicism is not our trade – we’d rather look to the progress being made than hold out for perfection. Still, we’ll keep a watchful eye on the Greener Pastures Pledge to see how much of a hit brands are willing to take. Only time will tell.