Startup of the Month: Evolved By Nature Biocompatible Fashion & Beauty Solutions
Launched in 2013, Evolved By Nature is a Massachusetts-based biochemistry startup. Founded by Dr. Gregory Altman and Dr. Rebecca Lacouture, the company specializes in the creation of biocompatible products that have applications within the fashion and beauty industries. The company has obtained more than 75 patents for ways to do everything from the development of moisture-wicking clothing to ultra-hydrating skin moisturizers. Plus, Evolved By Nature recently received FDA approval to begin clinical trials for its Activated Silk™ Dermal Filler. Fashion League spoke with Evolved By Nature to learn more about its technology and various applications, as well as how the company is working to create a healthier, more sustainable future.
Startup: Evolved By Nature
Raised: $91 million
Special Sauce: Activated Silk™
Investors: Mousse Partners and Chanel
FASHION LEAGUE: Can you introduce yourself and your company, and why Evolved By Nature started working in molecular science as it relates to beauty and fashion? EVOLVED BY NATURE: We were founded by Dr. Gregory Altman and Dr. Rebecca Lacouture, based on their breakthrough workaround silk’s biocompatibility with the human body in creating medical devices. That led to the creation of Activated Silk™ biotechnology, which is a sustainable molecule platform derived and designed from silk protein. It was developed to protect and enhance the human skin barrier in skincare and personal care products, and that lead to discoveries within textiles and fashion. It was realized Activated Silk™ has a wide range of benefits in terms of enhancing the barrier of nearly anything with a surface, including apparel.
Since Activated Silk™ is 100% natural and 100% biodegradable, it has major benefits for industries such as beauty and fashion – industries that need to end their reliance on chemicals in their supply chain that harm human health and the health of the planet.
FASHION LEAGUE: Who are some of your brand partners? What are some of the consumer-ready products that use Evolved By Nature’s biotechnology? EVOLVED BY NATURE: We have a number of very exciting brand partnerships in the works that we’ll be able to talk about in the near future. So far, Activated Silk™ biotechnology has been used by Anya Hindmarch – to help create her line of biodegradable and compostable leather bags – and by Gentrue to create performance activewear without the harmful chemicals traditionally used to move moisture away from skin and through fabric so it can evaporate.
FASHION LEAGUE: How does the manufacturing process of Activated Silk™ differs from traditionally manufactured silk and other natural fibers?
EVOLVED BY NATURE: It’s really not comparable at all, since we don’t make fibers or textiles. We liquefy silk cocoons in order to extract various proteins that we can then design into a liquid molecule platform. So instead of picturing silk fabric, picture a beaker of clear liquid. The silk cocoons we source are the byproduct of an industry that raises silkworms as a food source for animals, mostly marine life. We’re able to upcycle the cocoons and turn them into high-performance, sustainable chemistry for the fashion industry, natural ingredients for skincare and personal care, and even medical therapeutics. The process is completely different that creating fibers or textiles, and it’s also much more sustainable and supportive of circularity.
FASHION LEAGUE: It's fair to assume everyone hates piling on their clothes. How does your technology reduce the appearance of those unsightly rollie-pollies which are typically seen on knitted garments made with short fibers such as wool and cotton?
EVOLVED BY NATURE: Anti-pilling technology is something we have in the development stage. How exactly it works isn’t something we’re quite ready to disclose until we officially launch the product. It’s one of the many, many applications for Activated Silk™ biotechnology that we currently have in the pipeline that will complement the products we’ve already launched at market scale – such as moisture management for textiles and polyurethane reduction for leather.
FASHION LEAGUE: With your company’s focus on sustainability, do you work with any certification organizations or process verification authorities? EVOLVED BY NATURE: We’ve conducted an LCA, and we’re ZDHC certified and part of the Leather Working Group. We’re also Leaping Bunny certified cruelty-free. We’re currently in the process of evaluating which certifications to pursue because we want to be really purposeful that they’re both meaningful and understood by our partners in various industries. With everything we do, we’re very cognizant that we avoid greenwashing, even accidentally. So, while it might be quicker to acquire and list a lot of certifications, we’re really putting in the time to vet them and pursue ones with stringent requirements.
FASHION LEAGUE: What values do you think are important when running a successful startup?
EVOLVED BY NATURE: In today’s world, which is facing so many problems, it’s not enough to have a big idea. You have to be intellectually meticulous, empathetic and curious to really figure out how your idea is going to affect all of the inter-related systems it will touch. Otherwise, you could be solving one problem while creating a new problem down the line. For instance, replacing a petrochemical used by the fashion industry is great, but only if you’re product isn’t made with industrial agriculture that relies on fertilizers or pesticides that will harm local waterways (for example). Really leaning into precaution and untangling the knots that arise around sustainability is taxing, but important. As such, it also helps to be defiantly visionary – knowing that it’s possible to make real progress with enough constant effort.
FASHION LEAGUE: Any advice for our readers who may be looking to launch their big idea?
EVOLVED BY NATURE: Use the Precautionary Principle. It’s an approach to innovation that works really well for launching sustainable products. It has four main parts:
If a situation is uncertain, if you don’t have all the info, take preventative action anyway. Don’t use lack of information as an excuse to cause harm.
The burden of proof is on you to ensure that something is not harmful. It’s not the community’s job to prove that what you’re doing might cause harm.
If something could potentially cause harm, explore all the alternatives first.
Increase public participation in decision making. Involve the communities affected by your product, and learn.
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