When planning my return trip to Sweden (after having studied abroad there in 2019) for some remote work time and vacation, an elaborate Gala alongside some of the world’s brightest innovators and entrepreneurs in the fashion industry certainly wasn’t in the itinerary. Yet there I found myself, sitting at a table in the Golden Room of Stockholm’s City Hall, the same location as the Nobel Prize after-ceremony banquet.
The occasion was impressive - a celebration for the 2022 winners of the H&M Global Change Awards, an innovation challenge initiated by H&M Foundation aiming to lead the change towards a planet positive fashion and textile industry. Through a connection to the director of the accelerator spearheading and sponsoring the event, I was somehow able to finagle a ticket. I set the extraordinary backdrop not to gloat, but rather to highlight a startup based right here in the Boston area on the precipice of changing an entire industry.
As I admired the detail in the sorbet of the final course raspberry tart the server placed in front of me, I noticed a voice from across the table. One that I’m sure I hadn’t heard in the entire two-hour dinner experience.
“Wait, who’s from Boston?”
I directed my attention towards where the question came from. There looking at me from across the table was a man with glasses and a beaming smile.
“Um. I am. Are you?”
“Yes - we have to chat. Get over here!”
Despite living in the same small east coast US city, it was a chance encounter 3,741 miles away that introduced me to Luciano Bueno.
Luciano is the CEO of Galy, a Boston-based startup focused on growing high-quality cotton in a lab. He, too, made the journey to Stockholm, Sweden as Galy had been awarded the top prize of €300,000 ($330,000 USD at the time) at the 2020 Global Change Awards. Given the unraveling of COVID in the spring of 2020, the in-person award ceremony was postponed indefinitely. Fortunately in June 2022, Luciano was able to travel with another member of his team to finally receive their well-deserved recognition.
With over 15,000 applications submitted for review, companies recognized as H&M Global Change Award winners are considered the leaders in disrupting and transforming the textile industry. Galy as the 2020 top prize winner is already having an enormous impact and plans to completely overhaul damaging supply chains with more sustainable sources of cotton.
So, what exactly does Galy do?
Rather than producing cotton on massive plots of farmland as is standard with the industry today, Galy is able to manufacture lab-grown cotton that can be produced anywhere without being dependent on soil and weather conditions.
Galy’s sweet spot lies at the intersection of technology and nature. The process begins by cutting stem cells from plant life - and for those unfamiliar with plant stem cells, they essentially maintain the ability to transform into any part of the plant making them extremely versatile. Next, the cells are separated into nutrient-rich containers, allowing them to multiply, before being moved into other containers at which point they differentiate into fibers. By going directly from cell directly to fiber, the company circumvents the lengthy process of growing an entire cotton plant, resulting in significant benefits vs. conventional cotton production:
Beyond reducing the negative impact to earth and its resources, even the cost of Galy’s lab-grown cotton is competitive with high-quality conventionally-grown cotton on the market today. The company is positioned to truly reinvent how we think about supply chains in the textile industry, with a focus on sustainability and reducing our human impact on climate change at the heart of it.
Sustainability has never been more important. Startups such as Galy have an enormous role to play in disrupting conventional and outdated systems detrimental to our planet. It’s important for all of us to support and celebrate these kinds of efforts, especially in our own backyard. I’m excited to see what Lucinao and team do next, and encourage you all to follow along, too.