British fashion designer Stella McCartney unveiled a parka jacket in partnership with US biological recycling company Protein Evolution at COP28 crafted using artificial intelligence and biology to produce raw ingredients of polyester from plastic waste instead of fossil fuels.
The collaboration is the world’s first garment made using biological recycling and marks a breakthrough for the fashion industry as brands work to reduce their environmental impact and seek sustainable alternatives to polyester and plastic.
The parka draws inspiration from parachute styles that have appeared throughout Stella McCartney’s collections and utilising a fabric made using Protein Evolution’s Biopure technology, which transformed rigid packaging waste and industrial textile strappings, formerly used to secure international freight containers, into good-as-new polyester.
This Biopure process leverages AI-designed enzymes to break down polyester waste into the raw materials of new polyester that are indistinguishable to the petroleum-derived raw materials used in polyester manufacturing today to eliminate the need for new fossil fuels to create polyester.
Once these raw materials are re-integrated into the manufacturing process, the result is an infinitely recyclable polyester with a meaningfully lower carbon footprint than polyester produced from petroleum. Biopure is capable of handling a variety of waste streams, from plastic bottles and clam-shells, to industrial textiles and garments.
Protein Evolution and Stella McCartney create parka to showcase textile-to-textile circularity innovation
Connor Lynn, co-founder and chief business officer of Protein Evolution, said in a statement: “This marks a pivotal moment in the move towards textile-to-textile circularity in the fashion industry.
“Not only is this coat validation for the utility and quality of biorecycled polyester – specifically polyester chips created using Biopure – it also offers companies an alternative to the landfill or incinerator for their fabrics, extending the life of their materials indefinitely.”
McCartney was an early investor and brand partner in Protein Evolution. Protein Evolution’s initial fundraising round was led by Collaborative Fund’s climate-focused Collab SOS, which is in partnership with McCartney and LVMH.
In late 2022, Protein Evolution and McCartney also announced a research and development collaboration for the biological recycling company to turn unused polyester fabrics from Stella McCartney’s previous collections into virgin-quality polyester to pilot a new circular solution for the fashion industry.
Commenting on the collaboration, McCartney said: “Anybody who knows me knows that I hate waste, which is why I am so thrilled about our collaboration with Protein Evolution. Through my SOS Fund, we were among the first to invest in their pioneering biological recycling technology; one that has the potential and power to transform the world's plastic waste into infinitely recyclable polyester.
“Over the last year, Protein Evolution has taken unused fabrics from my past collections to test and prove their textile-to-textile circular process. This allowed my atelier to design and create the beautiful, airy parachute parkas made from biologically recycled polyester that you can see at our Sustainable Market at COP28.”