Fashion’s Biological Future is Now

safe_image-1by Joshua Katcher (also published on Huffington Post)

In an industry notorious for transience, flux and experimentation, it’s counterintuitive to consider that the fashion system is stuck in a rut when it comes to materials and real sustainability. Year after year, season after season, there’s this feeling of velocity, of working towards something better. Sure, there are a million ways a shirt can look, but if the way that shirt is made never changes, are things actually changing – or is it simply an illusion of progress?

Designers, press and editors alike continue to rationalize what happens to animals caught up in the fashion industrial complex as a necessary evil in achieving the highest quality, performance and most luxurious fibers, as if mother nature herself were meticulously positioning a leopard’s spots, arranging a reptiles scales or softening a goose’s down for the sole purpose of human use. And more often than not, the more rare an animal or cruel a process – from fetal lamb (also known as astrakhan or karakul) and calfskin (from veal calves) to angora and fur, the more heightened the perceived payoff will be. This is a strange psychological equation to say the least, but one that rules in the realm of luxury fashion. While animal agriculture is the single most environmentally problematic aspect of the fashion industrial complex, the choice to actually breed, farm, trap, confine and kill animals in order to attain their fibers will soon be obsolete thanks to a burgeoning sector of biofabrication startup businesses.

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Image: boltthreads.com

Leather without cows? Shearling without sheep, silk without spiders and furs without foxes? At first glance, something sounds wrong about this. The word “unnatural” gets thrown around when criticizing the cellular farming, synthesizing or culturing of animal materials. We think of frightening laboratories, test tubes, and scientists crouched over bubbling chemicals who are ‘playing god’ or at least Dr. Frankenstein! Our food and clothing should be coming from those bucolic images we see in ads of the quintessential farm with a red barn and two or three happy sheep lazing in a field, right? We cling to the marketed myths of where animal products come from because the images of factory farms, fur farms, leather tanneries or commercial shearing operations are not likely to stir up nostalgia, legacy and heritage. Outrage would be a more accurate reaction, which is why the reality of these industries are kept hidden – and now with AgGag laws, its illegal in many states to even document what’s happening inside these operations.

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Image: Joshua Katcher at IndieBio with the BioLoom team, holding cellulose used in production.

Enter Bolt Threads, BioLoom, Modern Meadow, Biocouture, Pembient, and BioFur. They are among the existing and emerging synthethic biology companies who are redefining agriculture, textile manufacturing and the fashion industry in general through innovation on a systems level. Bolt Threads has already developed an exact replica of spider silk without spiders, as Bloomberg recently reported. Modern Meadow is developing lab-grown leather and Icelandic designer Ingvar Helgason is developing BioFur, which is lab-grown pelts. Pembient has grown Rhino Horn in the lab, and will soon take on elephant ivory, while Biocouture developed a leather-like cellulose and now is a biofabrication and design-application consultancy. BioLoom has taken on the water and pesticide-intensive conventional-cotton industry with lab-grown cotton. The exciting thing about all of these companies is that they are just scratching the surface. This is a field of development and production that will be endlessly customizable, increasingly efficient and high-performance, and inherently more sustainable and less cruel than raising animals to kill them.

This is why the fashion community must stop kowtowing to the most sluggish and démodé symbols of luxury: fur, leather and wool that are still grown on an animals’ back.

It seems that if you have an idea for creating sustainable animal products without actual animals, you’ll be in luck because a huge trend in the field of synthetic biology is taking the greatest causes of the worst environmental problems, like animal agriculture, and finding visionary solutions. IndieBio, the San Francisco-based synthetic biology accelerator, recently announced that it’s offering $250,000 in seed funding for people with ideas for these types of startups.

Mock-up of a Muufri synthetic milk carton - the company is aiming for a marketable product by summer of 2015It’s also happening with food. New Harvest, a nonprofit that describes itself as “advancing technologies to feed a growing global population”, has helped launch companies like Clara Foods. Clara foods makes real eggs without hens. New Harvest also led Muufri, a company engineering yeast to produce cows milk without cows, to a similar accelerator. Modern Meadow, in addition to leather, has developed cultured meat, as has Impossible Foods.

The Biofabricate conference, heading into its second year, is a fantastic way to place your finger on the pulse of this movement.

We are on the brink of an industrial revolution and cellular agriculture is at the center of it. Companies like Ouro Botics are figuring out ways to take these developments into our homes and places of work by combining 3D printing technology with Bioprinting, so we’ll soon be able to print three-dimensional objects with organic and biological materials. Electroloom is mastering the technology of spray-on clothing, so clothing could be made of healthy, organic substances that are recyclable or biodegradable and always fit. We have only scratched the surface of what is possible.

the ultimaker 1... great fun repairing... ;-) www.our-botics.comanother ear because we realised we needed two... www.our-botics.com

Outerknown Evolution Menswear

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Outerknown has released a new range of outerwear and board shorts made from recycled nylon sourced from reclaimed fishing nets. According to the UN FAO there are over 640,000 tons of abandoned fishing nets clogging up the oceans. Designer Kelly Slater says:

“By collecting the fishing nets that are regenerated into ECONYL® products, we lessen our environmental impact while also cleaning up the oceans that we love so much – and that unique commitment to sustainability is central to who we are as a company”

 

MODEL MAN: ROGER FRAMPTON

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British model and fitness entrepreneur Roger Frampton has just celebrated ten years at Milan Fashion Week. He’s appeared on top runways and in international fashion and editorial campaigns for years. His newly-launched and highly sought-after training method inspired by Olympic gymnastics, utilizes the body’s own weight and is surprisingly accessible. From growing up on a small farm, ushering animals to the slaughter to becoming someone who advocates for animals and is at the forefront of fashion, health and fitness, Frampton is in an especially influential position to create desire around a more evolved definition of masculinity. Roger and I had a conversation where he shared some insights, highlights and ideas:

Joshua Katcher: What led you to modeling and what are some of the most widely-seen campaigns for which you’ve modeled?
Roger Frampon: I was first spotted working at my brothers bar in London. The campaigns which I am most known for are; Ralph Lauren, Aquascutum, Thomas Pink, Jean Paul Gaultier & Topman.
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JK: What few things do you always have with you when you travel?
RF: Passport, sunnies, laptop.

JK: You’re also a fitness expert. Tell us about your business and your approach.
RF: I am indeed. The Frampton Method is a practise on working with your own body, nothing else is needed. It’s unique to you and you only. I will be revealing lots this year on my YouTube channel. People will need to follow any one of my social channels to be in the know. [see below for links]

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JK: What is it like to be vegan in an industry notorious for fur, leather, and wool?
RF: Well I live in a ‘world’ notorious for fur, leather, and wool so do not blame the industry, sadly a case of supply and demand. The only plausible reason I had for consuming animals was taste. Taste is habit. Habits are in the mind. I am not my mind. Tick!

JK: What is your relationship with animals like?
RF:
Growing up on a farm I was surrounded by animals for most of my younger life, they were our friends but I still loved to help out driving them to the slaughter house whilst enjoying a bacon sandwich after. Looking back it’s quite remarkable what you can teach a young brain on the rights and wrongs of life. My relationship with animals is now a very different one having made an adult moral decision that they are not here for me to eat.

JK: Is the era of spokesmodels and supermodels over? What power do models still have to influence fashion?
RF: With social media, definitely not. Models are more accessible than ever. The power of the smize!

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JK: What’s your best advice for someone who wants to get in shape?
RF: To remember it was not your bodies fault that you are currently out of shape. It is your fault. Your social choices, your greed, your lack of education and understanding. Take responsibility. Forgive yourself, move forth and make some lifestyle changes.

JK: What are you favorite cruelty-free grooming and fashion products?
RF: Favourites are… Bulldog and Dr. Bronners Soaps. I would like to know more fashion brands!

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JK: What’s your most vivid childhood memory?
RF: Walking the mile long walk home from school with my sister with the smells and sounds of the country.

JK: What’s on your playlist, reading list and bucket-list?
RF: Afraid of this generation – Dagavaq, The War of Art, The moon.

Follow Roger:

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Monday Basics

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Healthy Hero: Dominick Thompson

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photos by JP Bevins

Dominick Thompson is a real New Yorker. He works a demanding day job, started his own business on the side, and still finds the time to stay healthy and vegan while training hard for triathlons. LÄRABAR, famous for their simple, real ingredients that you can actually recognize, asked The Discerning Brute to spend a day with Dominick and get to know the insights, secrets and strengths of this healthy hero. We chased him around on foot, on wheels, under weights and in the kitchen and even caught him sharing his favorite Cashew Cookie bar with a squirrel friend.

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Joshua Katcher: People who live in NYC are notorious for having the busiest schedules. What does your typical day look like and how do you make time to work out and eat well?
Dominick Thompson: I work 10-12 hours a day Monday-Friday. That doesn’t include any special projects I’m managing that may involve late night hours or weekends as well. However, I do create time for training and even competing in races as they are important to me and my health. There is simply no excuses to not be healthy and train efficiently in this day and age. My typical work day includes me rolling out of bed to train from 5am to 7am. That gives me plenty time to shower and head into the office. I spend my lunch hours training as well whether its at the gym or going outside for a run through the busy streets of Manhattan. By the time I leave my office in the evenings, I have one thing on my mind, and that is to go hard in my third training session for the day which usually lasts 2 hours after work.

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JK: You’re in amazing shape. What’s your motivation for staying fit?
DT: The physical and mental feeling one experiences when they are at their peak level of fitness is something that is just as addicting as life itself, and life itself is truly my motivation.

JK: What’s your workout regimen like, and are you currently training for any competitions?
DT: I’m currently training to compete in my next Ironman, with hopes of qualifying for the Ironman Championship held in Hawaii. I currently log over 120 hours of training per month.

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JK: Who are some of your heroes? How have you inspired others to get healthy?
DT: With respect to physical health and athletic achievements, I didn’t have any real life heroes growing up. The only hero in my life in terms of athletic achievements was the person I used to stare at in the mirror everyday before and after football practice. To understand this, you would have to understand my past. To be brief, all I saw growing up were individuals just trying to survive the day to day struggles of life and poverty. The last thing on their minds was being healthy. Not having any male role models drove me to teach myself how to play football and to get involved in other team sports on my own. It also taught me how to think very critically and grow up fast. Without going too deep, let’s just say that I used the negative things and experiences I saw growing up as inspiration to do my best and to be the opposite of what I was used to, both on and off the field. Now in my adult life, I have inspired others by showing them they can thrive and still perform in athletics at a high level all on a vegan diet.

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Cashew Cookie

JK: Do you make time for fun?
DT: I do make time for fun, but I also consider competing in endurance sports such as triathlons and marathons as fun. I love them!

JK: Let’s talk food. What’s a great pre-workout meal, post workout meal, and snacks for in-between?
DT: I like things simple and healthy. I juice and consume a variety of berries for pre-workout fuel. If I’m out on a long bike ride, I re-hydrate with juiced watermelon and eat bars like LÄRABAR throughout my ride. The Cashew Cookie bar is one of my favorites. The best thing about LÄRABAR is that it’s only a few, simple ingredients like cashews and dates. Post meal is always bananas and juiced fruits.

JK: What are some common myths you dispel simply by being you?
DT: That you can’t be strong on a vegan diet. I’m actually stronger now that I am on a vegan diet than I was when I consumed animal products. In fact, my strength training has only improved.

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JK: What music gets you pumped? What ideas inspire you?
DT: It varies. Depending on the day or the mood. Sometimes I rock out to Tiesto and other times I crank up some Young Jeezy. I love all types of music. Kings of Leon is one of my favorite bands. As for what inspires me, people that work 9-5 jobs while competing as weekend warriors in marathons and other athletics inspire me! It is the very reason I formed IRON BRUKAL, which represents The Working Athlete.

JK: What’s something every guy should know?
DT: That compassion defines one’s intelligence with respect to all life itself.

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JK: What is something every guy can do right now to start getting healthier?
DT: Honestly, cutting out all meat from your diet is the first step in my opinion. Your children and grandchildren will thank you in the future when you are still living and able to play catch with them.

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