The world’s first lab-grown cultivated exotic leather brand, Singapore’s ProjectEx, is gearing up for a fundraising round to disrupt the category.
ProjectEx, is an exclusive collaboration between handbag designer Adrian Furstenburg and deep-tech startup Cellivate Technologies. The innovative lab-grown leather concept recently earned international acclaim, winning the esteemed Vogue Singapore Innovation Prize in partnership with the Singapore Fashion Council.
Funding the future of fashion
The founders of ProjectEx, Dr. Viknish Krishnan-Kutty, CEO of Cellivate Technologies, and Adrian Furstenburg, are currently raising a Pre-Seed Round of USD $1 million to hire a core team of experts and develop leather from animal skin as their Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
“As a designer, it’s my responsibility to look at more sustainable and beautiful materials for my clients. This is how ProjectEx started,” Furstenburg told Vogue Singapore earlier this year. “I’ve noticed a gap in the luxury market where we’ve been dependent on animals such as crocodiles, alligators and ostriches because they produce beautiful patterns. But there’s been nothing to replace that yet,” he said.
“ProjectEx is basically giving the high-net-worth individual a brand-new material that has the same properties as exotic leather goods such as the pattern, finish and shine. We don’t want to take away from the properties that the animal kingdom has given us and thanks to technology, we don’t have to harm animals in the process.”
As awareness of the environmental and ethical impact of animal farming for food and fashion use grows, ProjectEx offers a sustainable and cruelty-free alternative using biotechnology and synthetic biology.
“At ProjectEx, our goal is to change the way luxury products are produced and starting with that, have an impact on the rest of the notoriously wasteful fashion industry,” Dr. Krishan-Kutty said in a statement. “Our vision is to create luxury without cruelty, and by using our technology, we know that this is possible.”
Disrupting the exotic skins market
Unlike other cell-based leather firms, ProjectEx is solely focused on exotic leathers using proprietary technologies. The company is already in talks with leading luxury brands under the LVMH, Kering, and Richemont groups.
ProjectEx’s advisory board includes industry experts Albert Koh from the Koh family, who sold Heng Long tannery to LVMH, and Stanislas de Quercize, former global CEO of Cartier and current board member of luxury brand Christian Louboutin.
The company anticipates launching its first exotic leather sheets within 18-24 months after raising the Pre-Seed funding, with scaling and commercialization to follow.
“Sustainability is not just a buzzword anymore – it’s an urgent need,” Furstenburg said.
“The luxury market, which has often been criticized for its environmental and social impact, is recognizing this and making efforts to move towards more sustainable practices.”