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$800 ‘Brewed Protein’ Sweater Proves Fermentation Is in Fashion

Seeking to minimize their environmental impact, fashion brands have increasingly sought to trade out water-intensive cotton and microplastic-shedding synthetics for more sustainable and natural fibers.

Rather than turning to hemp, weeds or sea shells, however, technical apparel brand Goldwin and biotech firm Spiber are working with Brewed Protein, a biopolymer created using plant-based microbial fermentation. After releasing their first Brewed Protein collaboration last year, the pair have teamed up again on The Sweater.

The $800 garment—made with 30 percent Brewed Protein and 70 percent wool—has been designed to emulate the traditional ski sweater, with a low-gauge knit and twisted yarn that delivers an ultra-soft and comfortable feel. It is available in unisex sizes S-L.

Goldwin and Spiber will produce limited quantities of The Sweater. From Nov. 9-29, consumers in Japan, the U.S., Germany, Denmark, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, the U.K, Sweden and the Netherlands can enter a lottery system for an opportunity to purchase the garment. Those chosen by the lottery will be notified on Nov. 30 and then have a chance to purchase the novel knitwear, with shipping slated to start on Dec. 25.

Goldwin and Spiber began their partnership in 2015, spending four years researching and developing what would become the Moon Parka. They released the coat—the first commercially available outerwear jacket to utilize structural proteins, according to the two companies—in Japan in December in a limited 50-piece run. The Sweater, their second collaboration, marks the first Brewed Protein garment brought to market in the United States.

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“The sweater has remained loved by many and its design has also remained largely unchanged since the original sweater first came into existence,” Takao Watanabe, Goldwin’s head of development, said in a statement. “The reason why it has played such a big role in the cultures and histories of people all over the world is due to the diverse and versatile animal fibers and the sweater knits that use these to their full potential.”

Watanabe says Goldwin’s innovative garment is a study on the form and nature of sweaters at large, and extracts the elements that will endure in future iterations of the knitted staple. “Furthermore, black is a color that is made by mixing all other colors and is also said to be the original color,” Watanabe said. “These sweaters that have been with us from the beginning will lead us to the future through modern-day technology.”

Spiber is also working with the agricultural firm ADM to expand the production of its Brewed Protein. The collaboration will combine its structural protein fermentation technology with ADM’s experience in large-scale fermentation technologies, engineering and operations, and extensive agricultural supply chain. The Brewed Protein polymers will be produced by ADM in the U.S. using plant-based dextrose as a feedstock, and then shipped to Spiber downstream facilities, where they will be processed into an array of materials, primarily fibers.