Modern Meadow launches ZOA – the world’s first biofabricated leather

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Founded in 2011 Modern Meadow, a spin-out company of 3D bioprinting developer Organovo (NASDAQ:ONVO), has been working on genetically engineered collagen to “grow” animal-friendly meat and materials.

Now, as part of the Items: Is Fashion Modern? exhibit at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, the company reveals ZOA – a fashion brand dedicated to the world’s first biofabricated leather.

Any shape, any mold, any density

The technology applied to ZOA by Modern Meadow is based on DNA editing technique not unlike CRISPR. Taking the base strands of a DNA molecule’s double helix, Modern Meadow researchers replace the middle sequences to tailor-make cells that behave in a certain way. These synthetic cells are 3D printed into a desired shape that encourages their development, i.e. connecting to form a thick layer of leather.

Containers holding samples of 3D biofabricated collagen sheets. Photo via Modern Meadow
Containers holding samples of 3D biofabricated collagen sheets. Photo via Modern Meadow

With this method, the material is “able to be any density” and “hold to any mold” creating a whole new design experience.

Dave Williamson, Chief Technology Officer at Modern Meadow, explains, “Our biofabrication platform offers us amazing headroom for innovation. Best of all, it’s eminently scaleable.”

Suzanne Lee, Modern Meadow Chief Creative Officer adds, “Our technology enables designers to explore materials in exciting new ways, enabling never-seen-before functionality, aesthetics and performance possibilities.”

The future of fabrics?

Awareness of the environmental consequences of the meat industry also led to an increase in veganism. If this trend, as some believe, is to continue, eventually companies like Modern Meadow could be ahead of the curve in a society that demands less raw material with a minimal footprint.

However, currently the costs involved to 3D print meat remain prohibitive.

The ZOA biofabricated leather graphic tee (left) exhibited at MoMA, and Suzanne Lee, Chief Creative Officer at Modern Meadow. Photos via ZOA/Business of Fashion
The ZOA biofabricated leather graphic tee (left) exhibited at MoMA, and Suzanne Lee, Chief Creative Officer at Modern Meadow. Photos via ZOA/Business of Fashion

In an article for Business of Fashion Rob Carlson, managing director of Bioeconomy Capital – a firm that invests in industrial biotechnology, says, “It is hard to say where this [ZOA] is going to go, but you could easily imagine bespoke fabrics and materials that are grown for fashion houses and that are only available from those sources.”

“I expect that we will wind up with further product differentiation with materials from Gucci and Hermès, where the brands are literally incorporated into the genomes of the cells that make the materials.”

A graphic t-shirt made from ZOA fabric will be exhibited at MoMA 1st October 2017 through 28th January 2018.

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Featured image shows Swatches of ZOA leather 3D biofabricated material. Photo via ZOA.is

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