Have you ever wanted to wear a spider web? Sounds crazy, but a new partnership announced in September between outdoor outfitter North Face and the biotech company Spiber will attempt to do just that. The garment, called the Moon Parka, will be made from the spider silk protein known as fibroin produced with the help of genetically modified microbes.
How it works. Spiber figured out a way to isolate the spider gene responsible for the production of fibroin in spiders and then created bioengineered bacteria that create the “spider silk” as they multiply. The bacteria can grow fast producing endless (conceivably) amounts of fibroin for manufacturing.
The Moon Parka’s successful prototype was based on The North Face’s top-of-the-line Antarctica Parka and marked the world’s first successful use of synthetic spider silk materials on an actual manufacturing line. Spiber said the process was, “a giant leap toward fully harnessing the power of next-generation protein materials.” According to Spiber, the material is lightweight, stretchy, and incredibly strong. The North Face said it was too early in the design process to know the exact performance specifications of this next generation adventure outer wear.
While everyone knows North Face, Spiber is new to the outdoor apparel manufacturing industry. The Japanese biotech start-up has revolutionized the use of bioengineered material in manufacturing. The company says it has a library of over 600 types of thread that can be used in a variety of garments. According to Spiber the process is environmentally friendly since it uses sustainable protein materials in the tread instead of the petroleum based synthetic polymer that most apparel companies use. The company has received significant start-up funding and produced a slick new promotional video showing the Moon Parka and the process used to create the jacket. The North Face and Spiber hope to have the parka in stores sometime in 2016.