The new leather, which it calls Mylo, will debut on a bag by designer Stella McCartney that will be shown in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s “Fashioned from Nature” exhibit, which opens April 21 in London. It will offer its own bags made of the new material for preorder beginning in June.
“We were looking for the right point to show the world that we are more than just spider silk,” Dan Widmaier, Bolt Threads’ cofounder and CEO, told Forbes in a telephone interview.
Emeryville, California-based Bolt Threads, which has raised more than $200m in venture funding from Formation 8, Baillie Gifford, Founders Fund and others, launched in 2009 with the ambitious goal of developing synthetic spider silk, a material that’s stronger than steel but softer than a cloud. That’s a tough problem, and many others have tried and failed to do it over the years.
But Widmaier, 37, who had started working on the problem while doing his Ph.D. in chemistry and chemical biology at the University of California, San Francisco, cracked the code. After studying spiders — at one point he and his cofounders had an office full of them spinning webs on hula hoops — he developed a synthetic spider silk from proteins produced through fermentation using yeast, water and sugar, a process that’s oddly similar to making beer. Bolt Threads’ fiber is designed to mimic dragline silk, the filament that a spider extrudes when it rappels. Last year, it debuted its first product, a necktie with a retail price of $314, and it followed up with a hat priced at $198. Bolt Threads has since partnered with Stella McCartney and Patagonia, and also acquired Best Made Co., an outdoor apparel company, which gives it the ability to sell its own products to consumers directly.
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