The brainchild of London-based agency Faber Futures and US biotech company Ginkgo Bioworks, the UK-based start-up harnesses biodesign – a practice that incorporates the natural processes of organisms to develop products. Think algae, fungi, bacteria and other biological components.
Launched at this year’s London Design Festival, NPOL’s first own-brand product is a GOTS-certified silk unisex jacket, fermentation-dyed with pigment derived from the soil-dwelling bacteria streptomyces coelicolor. The bacteria used is ‘wildtype’ – i.e. the form it’s found in in nature, rather than mutated by human intervention. This colouration process offers a novel solution to mainstream dyes, which are often harmful to the environment – and the wearer.
The first batch of jackets features a painterly pink surface design, but the bacteria can synthesise pigments from blue to red. Given the organic method of the dyeing process, the fabric colour and pattern will vary across the production timeline, making each item unique. Retailing for £4,000 ($4,894), the jackets will soon be joined by other biodesigned clothing items.
The online marketplace also stocks bio-based products from other brands, such as cosmetics made with fungi extract and letterpress art printed with algae-derived ink.
NPOL’s platform works on multiple levels. As well as selling products, its online journal serves to educate consumers (and future collaborators) about the potential of biodesign. The brand also positions itself as a prototype producer, developing an infrastructure to help other biotechnology companies turn their ideas into reality.