The Future. Biotech fashion brand Normal Phenomena of Life (NPOL) is using synthetic biology to create one-of-a-kind clothing. It’s not just a greener way to make luxury pieces but also a comment on the indistinguishability of mass-produced clothing. As the fashion industry wrestles with its emissions, products from cutting-edge companies like NPOL or innovative mainstays like Patagonia could add more variety and sustainability to consumers’ closets.
“Grown to order”
The UK-based NPOL is taking fashion back to the lab.
- NPOL’s signature product is the almost $5,000 Exploring Jacket, which was colored using the bacteria Streptomyces coelicolor.
- Each jacket is unique due to the nature of bacterial fermentation, creating unpredictable designs because of how the bacteria reacts with the fabric.
- The jacket (and NPOL’s entire collection) has a lower carbon footprint than traditional clothing because less water is needed in the dyeing process and less farmland is required.
NPOL is a joint partnership between biodesign research studio Faber Futures and biotech firm Ginkgo Bioworks, with the hope of being a collaboration between design and biology. To that end, the company had to build the entire supply chain to turn microbes into fashion — there’s just no precedent for it. That’s why the clothing is so expensive right now.
But by building it out, NPOL may also become the underlying logistics platform for other companies with similar ambitions. And with that expansion, hopefully the prices drop, too.