Chanel invests in Boston startup making sustainable silk

Photo credit: Chanel, Inc.

Photo credit: Chanel, Inc.

Chanel Inc. is the latest retail giant to make a public nod toward environmentally conscious products, investing in an eco-friendly chemistry company as part of an effort to make luxury items less damaging to the planet.

Both the apparel and cosmetics industries are major sources of waste, and chemicals often used to make fabrics and skincare products, such as microplastics, ingredient stabilizers, and textile finishers. Startups like Evolved by Nature, to which Chanel will pay an undisclosed sum for a minority stake, seek to replace these harsh synthetic additives with sustainable alternatives.

Evolved by Nature’s trademarked Activated Silk is derived from actual silkworm cocoons, which can be used in fabrics, cosmetics, and medical products, according to the company. Someday, the eco-friendly silk might even find its way into one of Chanel’s $475 scarves.

Evolved by Nature, based in Boston, was started by biomedical engineer Rebecca Lacouture and chemist Gregory Altman in 2013. Their product is pure silk in liquid form, a regenerative technology made from discarded silkworm cocoons. The company has patented dozens of molecular combinations of the natural silk protein since filing its first application in 2014.

Existing backers include Kraft Group, Jeff Vinik, and Roy P. Disney. The company declined to say how much total funding it has raised.

Evolved by Nature said it will use the fresh funding to “explore innovative material, mechanical and optical enhancements of different fabrics.” It’s unclear how the technology will be specifically integrated into Chanel’s products, which range from handbags to haute couture. Altman said the Chanel link-up is still in the research-and-development stage.