Sustainability back

Skin for skin

Skin for skin
Photo: © GOLD

The industry generally uses spandex to manufacture sporting goods. The Berlin-based WINT Design Lab led by Felix Rasehorn and Robin Hoske has developed an alternative to this in their GOLD project - and was awarded this year's Bundespreis Ecodesign. A conversation about slaughterhouse waste, the face of the gold beater skin and alternatives that are needed.
 

InterviewJens THOMAS

 

CCB Magazine:Hello Felix and Robin, you have just won the Bundespreis Ecodesign. How surprised were you that you were among the winners? 

Felix:Yes, we were a little surprised, but we felt even more honored, because our concept is somewhat radical.

CCB Magazine:In what way?    

Robin:Because it shakes the foundations of the fashion industry. The problem is that the textile industry still primarily produces petroleum-based materials, for example to produce elastic material. Spandex, which is particularly tear-resistant and stretchy, is usually used for this. But it is neither recyclable nor can the material be regrown, and more than half of all textiles are made from synthetic fibers. The proportion is increasing year on year and the amount of energy required to produce it is immense. We came up with the idea of using collagen for production in order to have a renewable raw material. We used the so-called gold beater skin for prototype production.

CCB Magazine:What exactly is the gold beater skin? And what problem do you solve with it?  

Felix:Gold beater's skin is a biologically unique, degradable and also highly attractive material that can act as an alternative to petroleum-based materials. The raw materials used are all renewable. Our aim was to develop a vegan, high-performance but also recyclable textile. The presentation sample, which won us the Bundespreis Ecodesign, is a lightweight and water-repellent outdoor jacket that stands out thanks to its clear design.

CCB Magazine:Can you explain how the project idea came about? 

Robin:The idea for the project came about through an exchange with the biotech start-up Mimotype Technologies. It emerged from a one-year research consortium. We first got to know the people behind Mimotype at an event at the Natural History Museum, they were terribly nice guys. They are all biotechnologists who deal with bio-chemical processes - so they are not only researching collagen, but also organic LEDs, for example. We approached them with the textile idea. We were looking for a material that is extremely stretchable and water-repellent. We finally found it in the aforementioned gold beater skin, which is a real alternative to elastane.

Felix: Gold beater skin is a biologically unique, degradable and highly attractive material that can act as an alternative to petroleum-based materials. The raw materials used are all renewable

The water-repellent, stretchy outdoor jacket made from collagen. Photos: © Denny Sachtleben

CCB Magazine:Why did you come up with it? Why didn't the fashion industry think of it before? 

Robin:Good question. One reason could be that the bio-reactors needed for production do not yet have sufficient capacity to produce collagen on a large scale. The basic materials required for this are also quite expensive. On the other hand, there are already some research projects that are comparable. For example, research into biosynthetic proteins that can be spun has been going on for some time. Threads made from spider silk are extremely resilient and elastic. North Face, for example, has produced an entire collection in collaboration with the company Spiber. The result was a parker that has a tensile strength comparable to that of spider silk. We have just discovered the gap with collagen.

CCB Magazine:One misunderstanding that always arises with your product is whether it is vegan or not. On the one hand, it is made from natural materials and can be regrown. On the other hand, you used slaughterhouse waste for its production. Why is that?

Felix:It's true, we used leftovers from the abattoir for the demonstrator in order to be able to obtain proteins on a large scale. We didn't want to start with a small piece of fabric, but wanted to be able to demonstrate the jacket in question. To do this, the leather research institute FILK Freiberg extracted the gold beater's skin that covers the cow's stomach. We then extracted the DNA sequence from it and read it out. In future, however, this part of the information could also be copied synthetically and reproduced by bacteria in a bioreactor. In the end, this would no longer have anything to do with meat or anything similar. On the contrary: no animals need to be slaughtered to produce the collagen fibers. Nor does it require any toxic post-processing, as is the case with leather, for example. Collagen is not only environmentally superior to any plastic fiber. It is one hundred percent biodegradable and vegan.

CCB Magazine:What kind of background do you have? How did you come to be what you are?

Robin:We are both industrial designers and studied at the Weißensee Kunsthochschule. We know each other from our studies, I'm from Frankfurt am Main, Felix is from Berlin. During our studies, we founded WINT Design Lab together. We are driven by the vision of changing things in society for the better.

Felix: We are a design lab that works at many interfaces - for example with design and AI. In all our projects, we are concerned with ecological and technological responsibility through appropriate design practices

Felix Rasehorn and Robin Hoske. Photo: © GOLD

CCB Magazine:What exactly is the WINT Design Lab? What do you do there?

Felix:Oh, quite a lot. We are a design lab that works at many interfaces - for example with design and AI. In all our projects, we are concerned with ecological and technological responsibility through appropriate design practices. For example, we have developed an AI-supported physiotherapy wristband, launched a digital ultrasonic connection technology for airtight and waterproof textiles or are experimenting with our robotic arm that helps us at work - in everything, the focus is on innovation, the thirst for knowledge of new technologies and solutions. To this end, we combine the design discipline with areas of knowledge from biology, materials science, software development and other fields. There are no boundaries with us.

CCB Magazine:Back to the GOLD project. How has the industry reacted to it so far?

Robin:Actually quite good. Adidas is already involved in the project as a patron and is also interested in participating in the follow-up project. RWTH Aachen University is also on board. The interest is definitely there. 

CCB Magazine:Where else do you want to go with GOLD?   

Felix:We are simply picking up where we left off. We are and will remain focused on the biological material properties. We will validate the biotechnological reproduction in a further research project in the coming years - the aim is to bring an absolutely industrially viable product onto the market that is technically, aesthetically and ecologically valuable and creates added value.

Category: Innovation & Vision

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