Andras Forgacs is the founder and chief executive of Modern Meadow, a start-up we’ve covered in WTVOX extensively. Modern Meadow has become a global sensation for their innovative leather-like material, popularly known as vegan leather. In fact, while the material made by Modern Meadow in the lab is made from collagen protein, the same building blocks that constitute the animal leather, their product is actually a vegan-friendly material rather than leather.
Leather, by definition, is a tanned animal hide, which is not what Modern Meadow does. In the same fashion the growth in popularity the vegan food has experienced, to the point of shaking up the food industry, the same will happen to the $200bn (£153bn) leather industry but, at an accelerated rate, said Andras Forgacs.
“The market of animal skins for fashion is a huge market with massive shortcomings. You must raise animals and put up with their diseases, water and food consumption, pollution as they create large amounts of gas and greenhouse emissions, sacrifice them and finally transport their skins halfway around the world, again with tremendous CO2 emissions.”
And he’s so right. Apart from the considerable waste the industry is facing, as more than half of a cow-skins are rejected due to imperfections, growing animals for their skins present a massive environmental problem. More recently, killing animals for their skins has become a serious ethical issue, supported by the vegan movements.
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The use of fermentation, most widely known for beverages, has existed for centuries. But technological advances in microbiology in the 1930s uncovered that microorganisms could be fermented, which is how we engineer the DNA of yeast to produce our collagen protein. . . . . . #biofabrication #fermentation #wearemodernmeadow #grownmaterials #futurematerials #futuretech #biotech #thisiszoa
Furthermore, when it comes to rare skins, such as alligator or crocodile skin, the situation is even worse; up to 90% of the material is wasted because of they require skins with perfect patterns.
“As innovative technologies are taking over the fashion industry, consumers are increasingly exposed to leather alternatives and other vegan-friendly materials,” added Andras.
It is a statement backed up by the Grand View Research (GVR) report which predicts that the ‘leather alternative’ global market will reach $85bn by 2025.
In the case of Modern Meadow, their ‘leather’ is produced from yeast cells fermented to a point where the final result is collagen. The collagen is then purified and assembled into individual structural shapes and textures, depending on their purpose: clothing, shoes, handbags, car and plane interiors, and even furniture.
“With animal leather, you only get quality from the back of the animal, and that’s it. With our vegan material there is no waste, no ethical issues, and no environmental hazard,” he says.
The interest in Modern Meadow’s vegan material from the fashion industry is huge, especially after a special sample commissioned by the New York Museum of Modern Art. Named Zoa, the exhibit is an innovative t-shirt made from Modern Meadow’s vegan material.
Following Zoa and amid growing interest amongst consumers, more luxury brands have started to seek out alternatives to animal leather. Luxury fashion labels such as LVMH, Stella McCartney, Michael Kors, and Furla have already begun substituting leather and fur from their manufacturing lines with animal-friendly materials made from fungi, yeast proteins, spider silk, and much more.
To date, Modern Meadow employs 90 people and it has recently partnered with a company that gives them the capabilities to brew yeast and turn collagen in industrial quantities That means that soon enough they’ll be able to support a Black Friday vegan shopping spree!