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PETA Launches $1 Million ‘Vegan Wool’ Prize

A spool of white wool and half-knitted product.
Successful candidates will need to develop a material that mimics the look, feel and performance qualities of animal wool. (Unsplash)

PETA will award $1 million to the first individual or small business to successfully develop a sophisticated animal-free alternative to wool, the animal rights group announced Thursday.

Entrants to PETA’s competition have until Jul. 28, 2023 to submit a fabric sample and production plan for their vegan wool substitute. The materials submitted should be bio-based or bio-engineered, biodegradable and/or recyclable, demonstrate low fibre pilling and shedding once knitted, and have the capacity to be produced at multiple weights. Like traditional wool, the material must also be moisture-wicking, neutralise odours and retain body temperature, PETA said.

Once a material is approved, its creator will also need to demonstrate its commercial appeal: showing the ability to produce it at scale and convincing at least one top-10 global clothing retailer to sell and market the item by the end of next year.

The challenge comes at a time of burgeoning innovation in the race to replace animal fibres with next-generation materials, which saw investment more than double to almost $1 billion in 2021, according to non-profit Material Impact Initiative. The fashion industry is also locked in an increasingly heated debate over the sustainability credentials of various natural animal fibres compared to vegan alternatives, which typically use synthetic, fossil fuel-derived fibres. Acrylic and polyester yarns, for example, are commonly used instead of wool to produce knitwear.

Applications for the design challenge opened Thursday, with entry restricted to any individual, group or company with annual revenues of less than $30 million.

Learn more:

‘Vegan Leather’ or Plastic? A Materials Marketing Battle Heats Up

Fuzzy definitions and bad data have left fashion consumers facing an array of claims and counterclaims as new and established materials jostle to market their sustainability credentials.

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