The North Face and a Japanese company named Spiber have joined forces to create the Moon Parka, a prototype parka made from synthetic spider silk. Its design is based on the North Face’s Antarctica parka but is made from Spiber’s proprietary material QMONOS, a fiber made from bioengineered bacteria that mimics the properties of spider silk. The material upgrades a jacket already meant for the most extreme arctic conditions with what is considered the toughest material in the world.
Mass-produced synthetic spider silk has the potential to revolutionize consumer products. Spiderwebs have a strength that rivals steel, but are as lightweight and stretchy as any fabric. Any garment made with spider silk promises to have a massive performance advantage over its counterparts. Synthetic spider silk also has the potential to be more environmentally friendly: most jackets are made with petroleum-based products, while QMONOS is biodegradable.
The reason that spider silk hasn’t seen use is that it’s incredibly difficult to manufacture, synthetic or not. Spider-silk farms are impractical (not to mention terrifying), and while the technology behind producing a synthetic version is improving fast, it’s still in its infancy. To bring the Moon Parka to market and meet its ambitious 2016 launch date, Spiber will have to figure out a way to mass produce its synthetic silk. The uncertainty means that a price for the parka is currently undetermined. If the North Face and Spiber pull it off, it will redefine the cutting edge of apparel technology.