Marilla Perkins is Director of Brand Strategy at Bolt Threads, a US-based biotech company that produces sustainable materials to supply the apparel industry. Starting with its spider silk in 2012, Bolt Threads harnesses proteins found in nature to create fibers and fabrics with both practical and revolutionary uses.
Why do you work in sustainable fashion?
I have always loved fashion and its ability to transform how we feel about ourselves and how we show up in the world. Climate change is the biggest challenge facing our planet and I’m optimistic that sustainable fashion can be a leader towards a better world by helping to make sustainable choices and transparent communication the mainstream.
Tell us about one item of clothing from your closet that embodies sustainable fashion.
A cropped black Eileen Fisher wool coat that I bought at consignment from my friends at Cuniform. It was responsibly made from the start, given a second life through consignment, and serves multiple roles in my wardrobe. Its shape and cut make it a swiss army knife piece that I can dress up or dress down – I even wore it through my entire pregnancy – and Eileen Fisher is a pioneer of sustainable fashion who has implemented responsible wool practices that both improve animal welfare and reduce the environmental impacts.
What do you think is the biggest achievement of the sustainable fashion movement?
This movement is still just getting started, but I think its biggest achievement is using its reach and connection to culture to generate mainstream attention on the problem and solutions. Many companies – Adidas, Patagonia, Kering, to name a few – aren’t shying away from their impacts, but are instead acknowledging the challenges head-on, investing in solutions, making public commitments to improve their practices, and inspiring and educating the mainstream as a result.
With regards to making progress towards building a sustainable fashion industry, who do you want to thank and why?
Stella McCartney. She has made sustainable fashion aspirational. She’s made it desirable to have a luxury handbag or shoes that aren’t made from a dead animal. She is committed to her values and has found a way to make ethical, sustainable fashion chic.
Tell us a story about a sustainable fashion industry in 2030 – a day in the life of a worker, a consumer, through the lens of your business, etc.
My hope for sustainable fashion in 2030 is a collective understanding of the complexity of the challenge and a standardized way to provide consumers with the context they need to make sustainable choices. I was inspired by the recent Allbirds Carbon Footprint labeling – a massive undertaking and investment – and hope that by 2030 a contextualized labeling system that empowers consumers to make sustainable choices is the norm.