Material Matter: The Fashionable Future of Leather, Cruelty-free

By Brittany DiBenedetto | Material Matter
Posted Aug 2, 2016

For thousands of years, before we could even stand up straight, humans have been covering themselves with animal skins. Leather is a beautiful, highly demanded material now used in many different sectors including interior, automotive, and luxury. Unfortunately the production and tannery processes of this historic material contribute to climate change, land devastation, pollution, and water contamination. Luckily, a team out of New York is working to transform this.

Through experimentation and innovation a new, revolutionary type of leather is underway. Behind it stands a team of scientists, engineers, and designers known as Modern Meadow.  Modern Meadow is a start-up, biotech company based in Brooklyn, New York working to make animal products animal-free. Their office is a unique, innovative environment with a mixture of high-tech biochemistry labs and design atelier.

I had the opportunity to speak with Suzanne Lee, Chief Creative Officer at Modern Meadow, and she shared her optimism about the role of Modern Meadow and their innovative materials:

“Within the next few years’ consumers will have products in their hands that they have never seen before. Products that are produced to significantly reduce the way we use land, water, energy and chemicals with very little waste. A closed loop system creating materials that are better preforming, more sustainable, and with a whole new aesthetic landscape.“

Modern Meadow is one of the first companies able to produce a material using biofabrication. This means it is not a synthetic material based on petrochemical polymers. Biofabrication enables them to grow living cells for the sake of producing collagen, the protein essential for creating leather, without the use or harm of animals. With cell manipulation, the team has the ability to control the structure of the material in order to design performance properties and the aesthetics desired. The material created is genuinely biological with the same structure you would find in real animal leather. Modern Meadow is continuing its research and development but is now moving towards building a pilot plant to prototype manufacture and scaling up the process.

The exciting part of this material is that it has sustainability at its core while also pushing functionality and aesthetics. Modern Meadow is also able to create materials that will have applications that traditional leather couldn’t; imagine a leather with lightweight or elastic capabilities. The merging of science with fashion is just beginning; there is a completely new generation of materials on the horizon.

For more information on Modern Meadow, visit their website.

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