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Sustainable strides: The journey of Bolt Threads in fashion leadership

Embark on a thought-provoking expedition into sustainability within the fashion industry with our new series on Images Business of Fashion. In this series, we traverse the intricate pathways of visionary brands committed to reshaping the narrative of fashion through sustainable initiatives. As we journey forward, we uncover the strategies and the profound ethos that propels these brands toward a greener, more responsible future.

In each installment, we unravel the layers of innovation, dedication, and conscious decision-making that define the leadership of these brands. From reimagining supply chains to championing eco-friendly materials, these trailblazers exemplify a paradigm shift towards a more sustainable and ethical fashion landscape.

This week, IMAGES Business of Fashion explores sustainability initiatives by Bolt Threads, unveiling their innovative strides in reshaping the fashion industry.

Material innovation startup Bolt Threads is a venture-backed, idea-driven company, led by world-class talent, and experienced executives from the technology and apparel industries. The company was founded in 2009 when a bioengineer, a biophysicist, and a biochemist – Dan Widmaier, David Breslauer and Ethan Mirsky– came together with an optimistic idea that through biotechnological innovation, they could change the world.

Bolt Threads came into existence with the goal to develop better materials for a better world. Bolt Threads is basically a material solutions company, which takes nature as its inspiration to invent and scale advanced, credible materials that aim to put humanity on a path towards a more sustainable future.

Their latest product, Mylo, is a mycelium leather alternative. Made from mushrooms, it is in greater demand than Bolt Threads can supply as more fashion brands are showing a keen interest in experimenting with material alternatives. Mylo is part of the fast-growing material innovation category that’s aimed at developing lower-impact alternatives to conventional materials to help fashion brands meet their sustainability goals.

Bolt Threads’ new initiative, called the Greener Pastures Pledge, will give the brands who vow to give up virgin leather preferential access to Mylo. Leather is a key target both for climate reasons, as it’s a top source of greenhouse gas emissions in the fashion supply chain and contributes to the ongoing deforestation in the Amazon, as well as to meet the growing consumer demand for vegan fashion. While most leather alternatives of the past were made from plastic, materials like Mylo are turning to bio-based sources in their quest to replace animal hides.

Sustainable Supply Chain

To deliver millions of square feet of Mylo, Bolt Threads has built a world-class supply chain that maintains Mylo’s high quality while continuously minimizing its environmental impact.

  • Their European tanning partner has five generations of experience working with leather and meets top certifications in sustainability, including a gold rating from the Leather Working Group.
  • Their mycelium partner is the world’s expert in growing mushrooms; they operate a state-of-the-art facility in the Netherlands that utilizes vertical farming to minimize their ecological footprint.

The Future of Fashion is Mushrooms

For billions of years, mycelium has grown on the earth and served as ecological connective tissue to all life on earth. A sprawling, infinitely renewable, interlaced web, it threads through soil, breaks down organic matter, and provides nutrients to plants and trees.

To make Mylo, Bolt Threads has engineered a process to grow mycelium in a vertical farming facility powered by 100% renewable energy and transformed it into a material that looks and feels like animal leather.

Soft, supple, and less harmful to the environment – Mylo is everything brands and consumers love about leather, without everything they don’t.

How Mylo is Made

The process begins with mycelium cells:

  • Bolt Threads grows the cells on beds of renewable, organic matter
  • Billions of cells grow and form an interconnected 3D network
  • The company processes the resulting network and tans and dyes it to make Mylo

Brands Consorting with Bolt Threads

In a resource-constrained world, the time has come to develop smarter solutions through advanced science and a shared commitment to a better future. Keeping this in mind, Bolt Threads has partnered with the following retailers for a meaningful future:

  • Adidas
  • Kering
  • Lululemon
  • Stella McCartney

Selected based on mission alignment, high standards of quality, and the ability to scale worldwide, these retailers have banded together to invest in meaningful material innovation with Mylo.

Stan Smith Mylo by Adidas

Debuted by consortium partner adidas in April 2021, the Stan Smith Mylo™ is the first-ever shoe made with Mylo. By reimagining the brand’s iconic shoe silhouette with Mylo, adidas pays homage to a classic with a new pledge of responsibility to Ʃ nd material solutions inspired by nature.

Guiding Principles

  • A Comprehensive Approach to The Product Life Cycle: Bolt Threads is inspired by nature’s circular and efficient processes to consider every aspect of the life cycle – all production inputs, energy and water use, and product end-of-life. Their goal is not just one improvement, but reduced environmental impact and positive social change throughout the whole process.
  • Sustainability Built in From the Start: At Bolt, they start by excluding highly hazardous chemistries and unsustainable practices from the onset of product and process development. The company evaluates the remaining options and choose the best balance of sustainability, performance, and function.
  • Data in Their DNA: At the core, the power of data is valued by every brand. As a result, the brand has been investing in science, research, and third-party testing to inform the decision-making and drive measurable progress on the impacts.
  • Sustainability is a Journey, Not Simply a Destination: The brand recognizes that there is always room for progress, and are constantly evolving the work. It sets near-term and long-terms goals to illustrate where they’re headed next and in the future.
  • Building a World Class Supply Chain: From the supply chain side, the expectations are high. The brand selects best-in-class partners who share our vision for better materials and a better planet.

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