You have been critical of the SAC/Higg. The criticism of SAC/Higg has been mounting. Is there going to be a post-Higg world? How do you see the discourse shaping up in the coming days? Will it be about who is able to drive the narrative?
Higg MSI is like teaching a child the following algorithm to cross the street: “Hey kid, look left...and if there is no traffic run across the street.” Promoters of Higg MSI say that it is “better than nothing”. The algorithm above is also “better than nothing”. (e.g., Better than just telling a child to run into traffic).
Higg MSI has now been proven in a court of law to essentially “look in one direction” while failing to look in other critical directions. For example, Higg MSI fails to look at nano and microplastic pollution, fails to acknowledge overuse of toxic PFAS plastics, wilfully ignores methane leaks and water usage associated with extracting resources to product plastics, et cetera.
If humanity is going to make progress, then we need deeply informed technical discussions about what the correct problems to solve are. The reason the fashion industry is worse off today is because greenwashing that oversimplifies highly technical issues is pervasive. Moreover, oversimplification is exactly what has gotten Higg MSI and those that use Higg MSI into lawsuits.
Industry news is flooded with announcements about new fibre innovations/developments. Do you think there are far too many different fibres in the market, with each claiming this or that? Do you think there is so much of a clutter that both apparel makers as well as end-consumers stand confused?
There are people in the world who claim ‘mushrooms’ (mycelium) is going to do everything. It is a really nice, tidy story. The problem is that most of the story is marketing hype and lacks technical rigour. The observable evidence is that individual companies have now spent hundreds of millions of dollars each over the course of many years and gotten essentially nowhere. Supply chain is full of stories about how the marketing is about mycelium/mushrooms but behind the scenes there is use of “mushrooms + plastics”.
When the very first product came out (100 small bags), did you read how the media went overboard? It was a Stella McCartney handbag made with Mycelium leather from Bolt Threads, and though touted as a pioneering vegan alternative to animal leather, no one bothered to check that that material was coated with PU! The ‘blue sky’ story has not changed, but actual delivery of scale and market-relevant products is still hovering at zero. Behind the scenes, brands and supply chain are noting that this is a colossal failure.
In the meantime, brands do not want to take poor performing materials that use plastic to market.
Let's talk about NFW itself. You worked on all-natural alternatives to petroleum-derived plastics. How did the idea of producing textiles develop over the years? Did you see the whole problem of the fashion industry essentially being a problem of fibres?
With regard to NextGen materials, NFW is completely unique with a categorically new approach to making materials. NFW uses biomimicry in a number of award-winning ways.
Firstly, we let a variety of plants use sequestered carbon and solar energy to produce nutrients like cellulose, lignocellulose, vegetable oils, gum, proteins, and other primary ingredients at massive scale. Instead of being reliant on one type of ingredient, NFW combines these ingredients directly and efficiently in clever ways. This allows NFW to tune and engineer the attributes of materials to perform for many different industries, while avoiding plastics completely. There is a major award that NFW is winning and will be announced in a few weeks, and this because NFW’s unique approach to zero-plastic is so profoundly transformative.
NFW now has performance textiles, leather-alternatives, foams, 3D molded composites that are enabling nutrient footwear – without plastics.
NFW has developed an ecosystem of biobased, 100% plastic-free materials for footwear uppers, outsoles, and foams. With this first-in-kind suite of material solutions, brands are delivering game-changing, sustainable products at the price, scale, and performance level their customers expect.
Many footwear brands have set bold sustainability targets only to discover that the material supply chain is poorly equipped with cost-effective, performance-ready, truly sustainable materials to support their goals. We’ve changed that. In fact, we’re changing the entire game. With NFW, the impossible shoe is no longer impossible.
No other company on the planet has built technologies like NFW. NFW has put four families of materials into market that are all plastic-free. We can produce these materials from a variety of different plants. This makes our production system incredibly robust and that is why NFW is scaling up capital so efficiently.