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Lab-Grown Leather Might Just Be the Next Big Thing in Fashion

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When you talk about fashion staples, a trusty leather jacket is always on top of the list. It’s a style classic and a flexible piece of clothing. While some may still prefer genuine leather when filling up their closets, the movement to a more responsible consumer culture has encouraged even the pickiest shopaholics to go for alternatives to genuine leather.

And soon, a new, science-backed option could become available to all. A New York-based company is saying bye to the cow and hello to the lab as they create lab-grown leather.

Modern Meadow is a biofabrication company that grows animal-free leather made from living cells.

Andras Forgacs, co-Founder and CEO of Modern Meadow said in a statement:

“Modern Meadow harnesses the combined power of design, biology and engineering to change the way we think about materials, unlocking the capabilities of nature. Leather, which represents a $100-billion raw material market, has always been prized for its beauty, functionality and enduring status. Today, as a co-product of the meat industry, it is subject to fluctuations in availability, quality, price and growing demand. At Modern Meadow, we’re re-imagining this millennia-old material to create revolutionary new features without harming animals or the environment.”

Biofabrication is the process of growing materials originally found in nature using living cells instead of animals.

Leather is biofabricated by cultivating collagen. Using DNA editing tools, yeast cells are engineered to produce collagen, which is later on assembled to create the ‘hide.’ The leather is then tanned, a chemical process that prevents decay.

Modern Meadow CTO Dave Williamson, during the annual meeting of the Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology, was quoted as saying:

“Until a couple years ago, we were still using tissue engineering to produce lab-scale volumes of collagen. Now, using our proprietary biofabrication process, we are producing animal-free, recombinant collagen that rivals any collagen currently on the market. This shows that it’s possible not only to create breakthrough materials but to do so at an industrial scale.”

The biofabricated leather reportedly reduces waste up to 80 percent compared to traditional leather.

Unlike animal hide, biofabricated leather requires less tanning and lower inputs of land, water, energy, and chemicals. The biofabricated material can also be produced according to the size and shape needed, which minimizes waste.

Modern Meadow’s biofabricated leather isn’t out on the market yet, but a first look at their lab-grown leather clothing items will be showcased at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City starting October. What do you think? Are you interested in checking them out?

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