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Bolt Threads' Leather Alternative Is Now Globally Scalable

How can companies incite widespread environmental? change? Build a quality, scalable product, argues Bolt Threads Founder Dan Widmaier on stage at BoF VOICES.
Dan Widmaier | Source: Getty Images for The Business of Fashion
By
  • Tamison O'Connor

OXFORDSHIRE, United Kingdom — Despite an impending environmental crisis, the best days of our planet are ahead of us.

That's according to Bolt Threads Founder and Chief Executive Dan Widmaier, who believes his company has created what the fashion industry has been waiting for: a scalable material innovation with potential to change how people around the world consume, by aligning profit with purpose.

The biotechnology company has created a leather alternative made from mycelium bacteria which — after years of investment and development — now has the ability to be globally scalable, announced Widmaier for the first time on stage at BoF VOICES. Bolt Threads will be able to produce 1 million square feet per year of the material, called Mylo, a volume that has already been committed for use by brand partners.

Bolt Threads, which has attracted over $200 million in investment, has also inked an exclusive partnership with German tannery Heller Leder to turn sheets of mycelium "leather" into finished products that can be incorporated into clothing and accessories, he added.

Widmaier knows that sustainable materials have to perform as well — if not better — than the fabrics currently used by the fashion industry.

Modern innovation is not about making the next big thing, it's about remaking it.

“Modern innovation is not about making the next big thing, it’s about remaking it. It may not be the sexiest term to say... but when you want to disrupt an industry to service change, it’s critical,” he said, adding that fashion needs to look to products like Tesla cars and Impossible Foods burgers for inspiration. “They’re not just good products in their category, they’re good products period. They’re both examples of the next same things. Being good is the same as doing good.”

But the ability to scale is vital to inciting widespread, impactful change. While the fashion industry is incredibly polluting, it also has a global reach and influence built into its model, with industry leaders able to impact cultures and markets based on the decisions they make day to day.

“Scale is about taking what was once a conscious choice by an individual, and making it a routine choice by everyone,” said Widmaier. “A single unit isn’t changing the world, we need to make billions of them.”

To learn more about VOICES, BoF's annual gathering for big thinkers, visit our VOICES website, where you can find all the details on our invitation-only global gathering.

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The State of Fashion: Technology