BOOTING HARMFUL LEATHER: MODERN MEADOW REVOLUTIONIZES FASHION THROUGH BIOENGINEERING

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BY LAUREN NEHORAI

11.15.21

COVER ART: KENDALL SINGER

Modern Meadow is breaking through industry boundaries via state-of-the-art biofabrication technology. As a pioneer in the leather landscape, the start-up is creating lab-grown leather from plants, placing it at the forefront of sustainability and innovation. Modern Meadow is the epitome of rebirth, as it reimagines collagen cells, transforming them into everything from a favorite pair of boots to the future of fashion. 

 

The novel concept stemmed from founder Andras Forgacs’s travels abroad to China, where the depletion of animal products for leather goods led him to analyze the interconnection between materials, sustainability and consumption. Andras was no foreigner to the field, having advised in biotech and private equity at McKinsey. Using his extensive background in 3D printing and biotech, Andras partnered with his legendary-biologist father, Gabor Forgacs, to create Modern Meadow, which directly translates to the birth of a new field. 

The technological premise of the brand is Bio-Alloy™ technology, which combines selected proteins with bio-based polymers to create soft, high-quality leather that can be produced on a large scale. Materials are rich in color and high in durability, all while being the most sustainable option for leather to date. Vibrant color is displayed with zero dye wasted, as it is infused into the material instead of stained atop a layer of coating. All products are abrasion-resistant, water-resistant, long-lasting and age naturally like animal-based leather. 

 

Sustainability is a major selling point of the brand. The whole idea is to use nature to save nature, through the use of plant-based materials as an alternative to petroleum-based products. This minimizes the global carbon footprint, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80%. A commitment to climate action rests at Modern Meadow’s core, which resonates with a large market of consumers who share this same value. What makes the brand stand out further is that it challenges the idea that quality performance and eco-friendliness are mutually exclusive; with Modern Meadow, the two go hand in hand. I mean, who wouldn’t want to buy leather that is abundantly better for the environment, with no visible downside? Furthermore, who wouldn’t want to contribute to the rebirth of an unsustainable industry, propelling fashion forward?

 

What started out as a mere research and development project, now has over $40 million in funding, and the applications of Modern Meadow’s technology are brought to life. Their prototype brand “ZOA” has had pieces displayed at MoMa, and the company is looking to partner with various fashion companies to collaborate on leather goods for purchase within the upcoming years. 

 

Leather is a $100 billion dollar industry, in which Modern Meadow is eager to revolutionize for the better. In the United States, roughly 159 million animals are killed each year to maintain the leather industry, but change is underway. With a revival of midcalf and knee-high leather boots this winter, it’s important for consumers to realize the adverse effects of buying animal-based clothing products. Most luxury brands, such as the classic Hermès and the trending Paris Texas, use real animal skin for their products but are failing to notice the increasing value of sustainability that is trumping the past value of authentic leather. While other alternatives like “pleather” and “vegan leather” exist, their points of differentiation from animal-based leather products are price-related, as they merely act as a cheaper substitute. But, every other option pales in comparison to Modern Meadow, as it spearheads a new field of fashion with forward-thinking ideas of sustainability and incomparable quality. The leather industry is being revolutionized, becoming a key player in the Modern Renaissance.