Sep 21, 2023
by Karl Smith
GANNI and Modern Synthesis Made a Bou Bag from Bacteria
by Karl Smith
Sep 21, 2023

GANNI has been on a roll lately. In the last two months alone the Danish brand has collaborated with New Balance on a sneaker made from 100% recycled materials and last month in collaboration with New Balance and worked with material innovation company Polybion to create a jacket constructed from bacterial cellulose.

Of course, when we say “lately,” that isn’t really the full picture. This recent flurry of activity doesn’t mark the start of something new for GANNI – the Copenhagen-based label isn’t just hopping on the latest trend and seeing where it takes them: it may have ratcheted up its efforts in this are in 2023 so far, but this is something more like a continuation – an expansion, even – of a key element to what makes GANNI, well, GANNI.

GANNI is a leading advocate for material change in the fashion industry, and their Fabrics of the Future initiative serves as a powerful example for other brands to follow.” – Jen Keane, Founder and CEO of Modern Synthesis

We’re excited to move towards a commercial launch of the Modern Synthesis x GANNI Bou Bag in early 2025 and are actively working to increase our production capacity to meet requirements for a commercial launch.”

In that sense, the fact of this latest collaboration should come as no surprise. That GANNI would partner with a leader in material innovation like Modern Synthesis seems almost inevitable. Especially when you consider that Mylo™ – BOLT THREADS’ leather alternative, part of the original cohort announced in 2022 for GANNI’s Fabrics of the Future initiativewent on permanent hiatus earlier this year.

“Working with bio-based and innovative materials gives us completely new insights into how we develop our products compared to conventional materials, which definitely impacts our way of designing positively.” – Lauren Bartley, Director of Sustainability at GANNI

Modern Synthesis, though, is much more than a stand-in for BOLT THREADS. The biotech company is not only dedicated to creating materials that are free from petrochemicals and animal-derived elements, it’s also committed to artistic integrity. It is, according to Modern Synthesis, “technology that rants creatives complete control over the look, feel, and performance of the products they create.” Which, all told, surely amounts to what an aesthetically-driven and sustainability-minded outfit like GANNI is looking for in a material partner.

Modern Synthesis has many years of experience, and as a biotech company, they predicted and realized a crucial need for leather alternatives, such as the demand for less plastic usage in innovative materials,” explains GANNI’s Director of Sustainability, Lauren Bartley. “Modern Synthesis as a partner has played a key role in expanding our perspective and understanding of bio-based alternatives, such as how we can trial these as part of our Fabrics of The Future initiative to become commercially available in our collections.”

“By showcasing how brands can prioritise more sustainable production without compromising on creativity or quality, we hope to inspire others to explore lower-impact alternatives.” – Jen Keane, Founder and CEO of Modern Synthesis

Unveiled at London Design Week 2023, the collaboration reimagines GANNI’s much-loved “Bou Bag” – previously made from a mix of materials, including recycled leather, polyurethane, recycled cotton and polyester – in Modern Synthesis’ bacteria-based alternative material, bacterial nanocellulose, described as “a particularly strong and fine form of cellulose derived from bacterial fermentation.” No animal-derived materials and no more fossil-based PU.

“We started off by looking at bio-based alternatives to materials as part of our ambitious goal of phasing out virgin leather by the end of 2023,” Bartley explains. “Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) and data have shown, that these materials have a proven lower carbon emission – which is crucial for meeting our goal by the end of this year.”

Of course, it’s worth noting that the bag revealed at LDW and given its first official public airing this week is very a much a prototype – a one-of-one piece. But that isn’t a permanent state of affairs. According to Modern Synthesis founder and CEO Jen Keane, the company is “excited to move towards a commercial launch of the Modern Synthesis x GANNI Bou Bag in early 2025,” adding that the biotech outfit is “actively working to increase our production capacity to meet requirements for a commercial launch.”

Not that the creation of a single bacteria-based Bou Bag wouldn’t be impressive, of course. There’s plenty to admire in the bag as an object in and of itself and in terms of what it stands for. Knowing that there’s plans for scale, however, positions this collaboration as a potential industry disruptor: a premium bag, from a known fashion brand, created from low-impact, bio-based materials – designed without compromise on the label’s own recognizable style – and manufactured, potentially, at a similar scale to GANNI’s other products.

Which isn’t to say that GANNI is looking to completely replace its previous version of the Bou Bag any time soon – although, as Bartley says, it is committed to phasing out virgin leather by the end of 2023. But, should this collaboration pan out the way it’s intended to, that feels like a very real possibility for the future. Not just for GANNI, but for the premium fashion industry as a whole.