THE NORTH FACE
‘Do more with less.’ From the start, THE NORTH FACE has embodied the ideal of finding balance with the environment through its dedication to combining cutting edge technology with an awareness of mankind’s relationship to Nature. This way of looking at the world strongly resonates with Spiber—as a company, our every decision is based on the principle of ‘Society, Prioritized.’ This shared worldview has been the foundation of our partnership to date, and continues to inspire our latest collaborative creation: THE NORTH FACE Sp. This joint research and development project spans the domains of science, art, fashion, outdoor apparel and technology, and has brought us all the way back to the most fundamental level of design—creating from scratch the very molecules used in our products. This process serves as a catalyst for thinking about the future of the world—and our place in it.
Despite constituting only 0.01% of the mass of all living things on Earth, human beings have an outsized influence on the global environment. In 2018, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A. published “The biomass distribution on Earth,” a survey into the balance of the global biosphere and humanity’s effects on it.* The paper estimates that, by weight, 82.5% of the Earth’s biomass is found in plants—the primary producers that support the rest of life. Microbes (bacteria, fungi, archaea, and protists) make up 17% of the total, with the remaining 0.5% consisting of animals. This balance—the “planetary equilibrium” we see today—is not static, but instead fluctuates over the course of Earth’s history. For example, while humans make up a mere 0.01% of the total, the combined weight of human beings and livestock is now over 20 times that of wild mammals. The quality of the relationship between humanity and nature is bound to further influence this equilibrium going forward. The valuable insights gained through this type of research both inspire and inform, just as they served to inspire the design of the Planetary Equilibrium Tee.
* Yinon M. Bar-On, Rob Phillips, and Ron Milo (2018) The biomass distribution on Earth. PNAS 115 (25) 6506-6511
The Planetary Equilibrium Tee envisions a more progressive approach to clothing, featuring a blend of plant-based cellulose (cotton) and Spiber’s microbially-produced protein materials (Brewed Protein™). The 82.5 to 17.5** plant-to-protein ratio recreates the current balance of the Earth’s biomass in a form that can be felt on the skin. In addition to representing the plant and microbes which comprise the majority of life found on Earth, the shirt demonstrates the potential for an entirely animal-free manufacturing process.
The core materials in the natural cycle of the Earth’s living ecosystem are cellulose and protein. One of our visions with this project is to harness this cycle and create the resources used in the tee with these same elements—cellulose from plants, and proteins from microbes—to mimic as closely as possible the balance of Nature.
** While the value of 17.5% comes from the combined biomass of both microbes and animals, we chose to represent this in the tee by using animal-free, microbially-produced protein material.
The ‘Nutrition Facts’ motif on the body of the tee represents the fact that its constituent components can be consumed and reused by the Earth’s natural ecosystem.
Despite utilizing a heavy weight fabric, the Planetary Equilibrium Tee boasts a certain soft smoothness. This unique feel was realized by combining Spiber’s Brewed Protein™ material with high quality cotton—in a ratio that matches the makeup of the Earth’s biosphere—before treating the resulting material using our proprietary processing technology.