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”

 

Mr. Universe Goes Vegan

Mr. Universe 2014, Barny Du Plessis has announced in a recent interview that he’s now “all about the vegan gains”. Du Plessis won Mr. Universe 2014, and soon transitioned to being a “one-hundred percent, wholehearted, staunch warrior vegan”.

DuPlessis

He was born and raised as a vegetarian until he was 18 years old, but when he first started training, he, like many other athletes, believed that animal protein was something magical that was required to build muscle mass. “When I became a bodybuilder I decided I needed more protein [and] it took quite a bit of work to start eating meat, I didn’t like the idea of it… I became much more dissociated with our environment.” He also says, “I didn’t really care about animals… I didn’t want to address any suffering… I couldn’t empathize”.

People say you can’t be a top athlete as a vegan. Absolute bullocks

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Since going vegan, he has actually gained even more mass, now at 107 Kilos, and

he claims that there’s been no negatives. He wakes up with more energy and recovers faster. This is quite an endorsement for a vegan lifestyle from someone who takes his physique very seriously.

Barney is not the first bodybuilder to make waves with veganism – just check out PlantBuilt.com, but he is the reigning Mr. Universe which puts him in a unique position to help combat common myths about veganism. “If you have a good variety of different food…like beans, nuts, pulses, grains, rice…they all have protein in them.”

As for the haters, he exclaims, “People say you can’t be a top athlete as a vegan. Absolute bullocks!”

Follow Barny on Twitter.

 

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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MODEL MAN: JOEY SLOMOWITZ

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Joey Slomoitz has a love for life, but not just his own. A born thrill-seeker, he’s been utilizing his modeling career to see the world. But there’s more to Joey than enviable abs, an Australian accent and a chiseled jawline. Mr. Slomowitz is a passionate animal and social justice advocate, a parkour and surfing enthusiast and musician, and an optimist when it comes to the fashion industry. I asked Joey about his life, his career and to share some advice.

Joshua Katcher: Were you “discovered” or did you pursue modeling? If so, why?

Joey Slomowitz: I was actually discovered when I was seventeen at a performing arts competition in my hometown in Sydney, Australia. At first I thought modeling seemed silly and a ridiculous pursuit for me, but I eventually decided to give it a go. I started to enjoy it after my first few jobs and became more interested later on after finding out about the opportunity for travel.

JK: How did you come to veganism and what’s it like being vegan in the fashion industry? Are they compatible?

JS: I remember removing red meat from my diet when I was seventeen after having a phone conversation with a friend about trying to eliminate heavy foods and improving overall health. Eventually we came to have a similar discussion about milk and eliminated that too. Gradually, as our overall knowledge of health and nutrition improved, the last thing we were eating was fish. Then when I was twenty, I watched “Earthlings” narrated by Joaquin Phoenix. At this point I gained so much knowledge about the moral and ethical side of consuming; with food, clothing as well as entertainment and consumer goods that I chose to go vegan all the way.

I do believe being a vegan in the modeling industry is a compatible matchup. Even with the challenge of rejecting jobs where fur is used and at times, having to compromise on wearing leather and wool products, I personally believe there is always the possibility to influence those around me and make a difference in the minds of people creating the designs and setting the trends. I believe being a vegan model is something bigger; it’s the responsibility of being a role model.

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JK: Have you ever refused to wear something, or walked off a shoot? Why?

JS: I have always refused to wear fur for jobs in the past. Fortunately I haven’t had to walk off from previous jobs as my outfit was able to be switched out. I’ve seen the horrible processes undertaken in manufacturing fur and I could not possibly stand to promote this by wearing anything made with it.

JK: What would you change about the fashion industry if you could?

JS: I would of course want every designer to make their clothing without sourcing any animal products. What most people don’t realise is that manufacturing animal products (furs, wools and leathers) as a textile is completely hazardous to the environment and that there is nothing ‘natural’ about them. In fact, furs and leathers in particular need to be dipped into a pool of chemicals in order to prevent them from rotting away. As a result, ground water surrounding these manufacturing sites becomes completely polluted and results in health problems for residents located in the area.

I would want to encourage designers to take the approach of creating lifetime products as opposed to fast fashion apparel. I would encourage designers to value the use of recycled materials in their products and reduce their ecological footprint. On top of that, I would want designers to opt for having their products only made in manufacturing facilities that are local, pay fair wages to their workers and provide fair working conditions. In time, I would hope that all manufacturing facilities around the world are raised to an agreed international standard for fair conditions and pay.

JK: How do you internalize the idea that society views your physical body and face as ideal? How do people treat you because you’re good-looking?

JS: If someone tells me I’m handsome, I usually contort my face in the weirdest way I can and say ‘thank you!’. A good sense of humour is often the best start. Otherwise, I don’t think that I am necessarily the ‘ideal’ in physical features. No-one’s perfect. I’m usually too big for the clothing they give me. My understanding is that companies want to use people of different and interesting features to sell their goods. I guess people with elongated limbs such as myself are a good fit.

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JK: I’ve seen you doing back flips and parkour. How else do you stay strong and healthy?

JS: I exercise every day and eat as well as I can. Often beginning the day with an intense ten minute core routine, I always follow up with a healthy bowl of porridge (oats or buckwheat) and a cup of tea. Throughout the day I eat plenty of fruit and veggies and snack on nuts and seeds whilst also trying to eat as many leafy greens as I can. One of my best discoveries last year was hemp seed. Hemp seed has all the essential amino acids and contains up to 30 grams of protein per 100 grams. Rice and beans or rice and lentils are also a staple for me. I also make sure to try out different exercise classes and different workout groups. At the moment, the cold winter has lead me to start taking yoga classes on a daily basis. During the summer however, I was helping to lead group workout sessions for free in the park. I’ve also recently fallen in love with surfing, but that will have to wait until I can find some warm weather.

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JK: Books, music and art. What is inspiring you right now?

JS: I recently read “Way of the Superior Man” by David Deida; a great book about understanding the polarity between masculine and feminine energies, as well as owning your masculinity and living your best life.

I play guitar and sing so am often looking for artists whose songs I can study that will take me to the next level of skill and playing ability. The start of last year, I was obsessed with learning songs by the Beatles. Right now I’m studying John Mayer.

A couple of months ago I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was inspired by an amazing mural by Thomas Hart Benton. The mural portrayed scenes of American workers from the 1930s industrial era. There are so many things about that period that I find timeless.

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JK: Have you acquired a sense of style since working in fashion? What fashion tips do you have for other guys who may not have been dressed by many stylists?

JS: A couple of year ago, I met a stylist here in New York that introduced to me an aesthetic of menswear which I found has remained constant throughout time. To me it meant acquiring some great one time purchase pieces that are designed to last a lifetime. This included items such as raw Japanese denim, a good pair of vegan boots and some cool vintage men’s workwear. I’m definitely inspired by men’s workwear from the introduction of denim jeans in the late 1800s right up until the 1970s. This lines up perfectly with my aesthetic.

I think most people have an idea of how they want to dress, but they’re far too influenced by the marketing of chains that make clothing for the masses. I would say keep in mind what appeals to you and go check out the vintage shops as well as the thrift shops. Shopping around this way, there is always something for everyone and it will be far more individual. You’ll also be recycling and reducing your ecological footprint by not buying anything new.

JK: What must we all try?

JS: Firstly, I think everyone should try a plant based diet after reading up on how to do it properly and all the amazing benefits. If done right, it’s the most amazing and progressive thing we could do for our bodies as well as the ecosystems and the environment.

Someone wise once told me “you will only regret the things in life that you didn’t do”. I’m a big advocate of doing things where there is an incredible sense of adventure. I recently went to Hawaii and had an incredible experience on a dangerous 3 peak mountain hike in Oahu. We should always try things we really want to do that we are also afraid of.