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Natural Fiber Welding, Pangaia Tag Team on Plant-Based Alt-Leather Fashion

As the African proverb says, if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.

Natural Fiber Welding (NFW) and Pangaia, for one, are saddling up together.

The two material innovation superstars on Wednesday revealed the result of their joint efforts: The Pangaia Air-Gilet, a sleek black vest clad in the former’s plant-based leather alternative Mirum and stuffed with the latter’s cruelty-free Flwrdwn filling.

Lined with organic cotton fleece, it’s the first garment made with the ersatz cowhide—last seen swinging down a Stella McCartney catwalk in Paris—which NFW reformulated to present a thinner profile.

A customizable composite derived from plant-based waste such as cork powder, rice hulls and coconut fiber, Mirum contains no petrochemicals. At the end of its life, it can either be ground up to create new materials or safely returned to the soil as nutrients.

“The fashion industry is at a crucial inflection point and brands must move beyond their unnecessary reliance on toxic materials that harm our bodies and our planet,” said Luke Haverhals, founder and CEO at NFW, whose mantra has always been “plants, not plastic.”

Pangaia and Natural Fiber Welding's vest
The garment is the first to be made using Natural Fiber Welding’s Mirum material. Courtesy

Mirum sits alongside Clarus, a performance textile made with recycled cotton (Ralph Lauren’s a fan), Pliant, a rubber-based outsole, and Tunera, a PU and EVA-swerving midsole foam, in the company’s trove of cutting-edge materials.

“At NFW we have an entire ecosystem of plastic-free, readily scalable material solutions across textiles, sheet goods, molded composites and foams that usher in new possibilities for brands that want to make meaningful change,” Haverhals said. “We’re incredibly excited to work with a brand that shares our mission like Pangaia, and to bring consumers the world’s first commercially available ready-to-wear piece that incorporates Mirum, our breakthrough material that is fully circular in nature.”

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Flwrdwn, which Pangaia introduced in 2019 as its first proprietary material, adopts a similar closed-loop tack. Created with a fossil-fuel-spurning blend of natural​ wildflowers, a biopolymer and cellulose aerogel, the fluffy stuff is completely biodegradable. Like Mirum, it too has been retweaked. The new version boasts a fill power 83 percent higher than its predecessors, making it loftier and more insulating.

“Pangaia is constantly searching for alternatives to typically animal-derived materials, and pairing two pioneering innovations such as Flwrdwn and Mirum in a product is a perfect representation of what our ‘cruelty-free’ research pillar represents,” said Craig Smith, Pangaia’s research and development director. “We are extremely excited to be the first brand to launch this ready-to-wear version of Mirum, which again dispels the myth that we cannot have alternatives to leather that are plastic-free and usable in a wide range of product applications.”

The two companies were kindred spirits from the start. NFW’s remit is to invent and manufacture “shockingly sustainable” materials from plants, while Pangaia’s philosophy is to employ “high-tech naturalism” to expand the functionality of textiles. Both say that underpinning the partnership, which falls under the Pangaia Lab label, is a desire to push the limits of a material-rich yet plastic-free “bioeconomy,” where materials, agriculture and energy are “intrinsically linked and exchanged in a cycle with biomass at the core.”

“Our latest collaboration with NFW embodies the future of sustainable fashion practices by developing garments [that] combine breakthrough material innovations,” said Amanda Parkes, Pangaia’s chief innovation officer. “We are thinking holistically about fabrication to enable a next-generation modality for transformation: from ingredients to processes to end of life of a garment. As always, NFW continues to be an ideal partner committed to this mission, working to bring to reality our shared vision of a petrochemical-free fashion industry.”