Why Pangaia’s Latest Materials Offering Defies Categorization – Sourcing Journal
Existing material categories may soon become obsolete, according to materials specialist Amanda Parkes.
She should know. As Chief Innovation Officer of Pangaia, a London-based startup that uses “high-tech naturalism” to solve fashion’s most pressing problems, Parkes has helped develop a suite of materials that defy easy definition. , from wildflower-based “down” insulation to nettle-derived Himalayan denim.
Pangaia’s latest offering, a collaboration with Japanese company Spiber, also exists in this liminal space, she told Sourcing Journal. The result of microbial fermentation using sugar as a raw material, the brewed protein is “a bit in the realm of cotton, but potentially has characteristics that are more like silk.” The characteristics of the polymer are adjustable, which means that with a few adjustments, it can take on the performance and feel of knits, fabrics, fleece, leather or fur.
“I think we don’t even know how much they can manipulate him; that’s what’s so exciting about this material,” Parkes said of Spiber, which started out spinning spider silk without spiders. “It’s at this level of breakthrough technology that materials will start to be out of category. We associate something with silk because it comes from spiders or silkworms, and with cotton because it comes from the cotton plant. When we think of a microbe and a feature that comes from a DNA code, it could be a new type of hybrid.
Pangaia’s proof of concept comes in the form of a limited-edition black Nxt Gen hoodie, the first such apparel to go on sale. The startup has made less than 200 of the top, which is available for $395 in sizes XXS-XXL on its website. The hoodie marks the fourth capsule within Pangaia Lab, its experimental arm. Previous editions included items made with dyes grown by bacteria and 100% regenerated cotton.
“We call Lab a bridge to commercialization,” Parkes said. “Everything there is ready to scale. It’s not like a concept car. This is something we envision for the future of our mainlines and our B2B [business]. It’s a great way to attract early adopters.
Pangaia Lab is the perfect proving ground for brewed protein due to its limited availability and higher upfront expense. It’s best to start with a smaller amount to “work out any flaws in the material,” she said. “There are so many things coming up that for traditional brands it could be a bottleneck that stops innovation. So we have to work through [problems] with innovators to get on stage before saying, “I want 100,000 units.”
Currently, Pangaia has blended the polymer with 88% organic cotton to give it a sweatshirt feel. As volumes increase, the company will be able to test and improve its process, much like how Apple rolls out a new iPhone model every year.
The hoodie is part of a longer-term partnership between Pangaia and Spiber to expand access to Brewed Protein, although Parkes declined to specify the terms and quantities involved, citing confidentiality agreements.
She noted that the process of making Brewed Protein “isn’t free,” from an environmental perspective, although the sugar can come from any plant biomass, not necessarily sugar cane. Spiber, she said, is optimizing its inputs so that they do not compete with the food chain and maintain the balance of ecosystems. The infrastructure change needed to “step up to the next level” is also on the agenda. It requires capital, equipment costs, “all of that,” she added. “It’s more like brewing beer, [you have] these giant fermentation tanks, this kind of factory.
Still, Spiber said it expects its large-scale production to produce significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions and require less land and water use than traditional animal-based fibers. such as cashmere. Its polymer is also unrelated to the problems that synthetics face, such as microplastic pollution and persistence in the environment.
“Few brands have the ability and patience to harness a completely new material like Brewed Protein fiber to create a one-of-a-kind product,” said Kenji Higashi, Spiber’s Head of Business Development, Sales and Sustainability. . “It has been a great experience working with the Pangaia team, whose members have brought world-class technical expertise and scientific knowledge to our joint project, and whose mission to enable innovative solutions for a more sustainable world overlaps ours.”