Animal-Free Wool Prize Featured in Fast Company

Stella McCartney and PETA want students to invent vegan wool

Vegan wool sounds like an oxymoron. But designer Stella McCartney believes we might soon be wearing sweaters made of the stuff.

Stella McCartney is partnering with PETA and investment firm Stray Dog Capital to sponsor the first-ever PETA Prize for Animal-Free Wool Prize at the 2018 Biodesign Challenge, an international competition that offers university students the opportunity to envision future applications of biotechnology.

Parsons and the Fashion Institute of Technology are among the more than 30 colleges that will participate. Winning students will get to spend up to two weeks at McCartney’s London headquarters, learning from the designer.

Students will explore and develop proofs of concept for a sustainable biomaterial that could replace wool. They’ll be asked to consider every part of wool’s lifecycle, from production to disposal to recycling. The long-term goal here is to create a scalable manufacturing process for vegan wool that is compatible with today’s garment industry. At best, this innovation could propel the garment industry forward.

PETA has been focusing heavily on wool on recent years. The organization has released six exposés recorded at 39 world-producing facilities around the world, showing how sheep are mutilated, abused, and skinned alive for wool. Since shearers are paid by volume, rather than by the hour, the are incentivized to work quickly, which can lead to violence toward the animals. The wool industry is also known to pollute the earth with methane, contaminate waterways, and erode soil.

Alison Irvine