Biotech company looks at biomimicry to create textile fibres with DNA-programmed colour
Chui-Lian Lee, co-founder and CEO of award-winning Werewool: ”The fibres are inspired by how nature builds colour and function into materials.”
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
July 07, 2023
Lee now notices exciting cross-industry collaborations happening to address the impacts at the raw material stage of production.
— I believe that this collaboration is truly going to drive the necessary changes to meet our climate goals, she says. There are so many incredible innovations and opportunities to source the next generation of sustainable materials, and it is up to us as brands and consumers to support this tide of change and bring these materials into our closets.
The women-led and owned biotech company develops protein-based textile fibres with inherent, DNA-programmed colour and performance. It’s driven by the principles of biomimicry.
— The fibres are inspired by how nature builds colour and function into materials, Lee explains. It’s creating low-impact, biodegradable textile fibres with vibrant structural colour and performance properties like strength, stretch, and moisture management achieved through protein engineering. Our goal as a company is to make the fashion industry compatible with nature.
The team, she continues, consists of textile engineers, material scientists, chemical engineers, and microbiologists. They consider the end of life of the fibres at the beginning of life to ensure that they are addressing impacts at all stages of production.
— The fibres will offer the textile and fashion industry the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the use of renewable raw materials, reduction in water footprint, and water pollution. They eliminate the dyeing and finishing processes through protein-based colour and functionality, and finally mitigate microfiber or plastic pollution through fibres created to degrade into building blocks for a healthy ecosystem.
You were awarded the ELLE & Polestar Design Towards Zero Award at the Swedish Elle gala. How far have you come in the development?
— Currently, we have fluorescent pink proof of concept fibres showing that we can retain the desired and tailored properties of a protein in fibre form. We’re currently taking the proof of concept and working on adapting it to a wet spinning system —leveraging existing textile infrastructure — to create textile fibres that you can use in your everyday clothing. We anticipate that we should have our MVP fibres ready to spin into yarns and made into a garment a year from now. We aim to replace polyester, nylon, spandex, and other synthetic fibres, toxic textile dyes, and performance finishes with textile fibres that use proteins to create these qualities. We just closed our fundraising round of $3.7 million which will enable us to grow our team and manufacturing capacity in Brooklyn, Lee explains. She adds:
— One of our greatest challenges moving forward as a company will be to reach price parity with conventional textile fibres — reaching this price point will be key to our ability to make an impact at scale.