The fiber can then be built into silk strands that can be knitted or woven into apparel and other materials. In 2017, Bolt Threads debuted its first commercial products — a high-end silken necktie and a skullcap hat — in limited runs. The company also produced a one-off, gold-colored dress, in collaboration with designer Stella McCartney, which was shown at fashion shows last year. McCartney is currently presenting a new Bolt Threads prototype outfit at the London exhibit Fashioned from Nature.
Earlier this month, Bolt Threads announced a new partnership with New York startup Ecovative to manufacture Mylo, a synthetic leather made from mycelium, the underground root structure of mushrooms.
Under specific growing conditions, mycelium self-assembles into a supple material that looks and feels like animal leather, Widmaier said.
“We're currently growing Mylo in Ecovative's facilities in New York, as well as exploring additional facility options for continuing to scale up the process,” he said. “We're simultaneously working on process optimization at our labs in Emeryville (California).”
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The first Mylo handbags will go be available for pre-order in June through the company's website. Bolt Threads is also developing retail partnerships with Patagonia and the online retailer Best Made Co., which Bolt Threads acquired earlier this year.
The company is currently focusing on relatively high-end products — retail price for that limited run hat was around $200, and the necktie was $300. The company has yet to set a price for the Mylo handbags, but said it will be equivalent in cost to premium leather bags.
The ultimate goal, Widmaier said, is to ramp up production and gradually expand into several new lines of Microsilk and Mylo products at various price points. By making silk without spiders and leather without animals, Bolt Threads hopes to establish a new and sustainable approach to manufacturing apparel and other accessories.
“The textile industry at large hasn’t achieved major innovation in decades,” Widmaier said. “We hope to create innovative materials that are better for our planet.”