GROW YOUR OWN STINGRAY SNEAKER FOR $1,800
The collision of science and public entertainment led to a very interesting moral dilemma in the film Jurassic Park, where animals were injected with DNA to turn them into other animals. We all know how that went. In one of the closest real-life stories we have to the themes of such a tale, Thai manufacturers RayFish Footwear are taking science and public fashion and colliding them into one mashed up superfishoe.
Starting at $1,400, sneaker fans can select from a number of nature’s finest patterns - from zebra to rattlesnake to “Nemo” - and inject the pattern into the DNA of a stingray that will be grown for the specific purpose of being turned into a pair of shoes for your feet. As a declaration of superiority, our species can grow a nearly endless palette of designs on a lesser life form, while corporate marketing and many avenues of artistic expression may be further down the line as logos and sharp lines are out of the question at the moment, as co.Design reports:
“It would not be feasible for ordinary people to code their desired pattern in the DNA, so we made a design tool that allows them to create a pattern that we can actually grow on the stingrays,” says Dr. Raymond Ong, head of Rayfish Footwear. That tool eschews esoteric DNA snippets for a graphic-laden UI, allowing you to drag and drop up to nine patterns into your shoe, selected from a library of 29 styles of leather. With so many choices combining into such an array of designs, the possibilities seem endless, though obviously there are some natural limitations to just how specific users can be about a shoe that is ostensibly grown.
“We cannot breed any desirable shape or logo on the fishes, as our patterning process works by recording and recombining DNA of existing animals…. Squares are for instance not possible, as the expression of the DNA on the skin doesn’t allow it,” Dr. Ong explains. “Also, the patterns that grow on the actual fish sometimes slightly differ from what you see in the design tool. Although it is almost perfect, we are still developing the mapping between the design tool and the DNA encoding further.”
This obviously brings up a great many questions in regards to ethics, and while our society certainly does much, much worse things to the animals we already raise for things like food, clothing, and household product testing, it’s a bit more jarring to think that some of “nature’s” most glorious creations will be predestined to become merely another layer of separation between our holy feet and the ground beneath them.
Co.Design’s Mark Wilson puts it well:
While I can conveniently forget that the leather in my shoes was once the skin of a cow, is there something different in knowing that the cow had been bred and slaughtered just for me? Is this a farm-to-table situation, where it’s more ethical to name the pig that you’ll eventually eat? Or am I creating the most majestic animal I could imagine just to thieve its gorgeous skin?
Check out their video to get an idea for the creation process, where there is now a design contest to win your own pair of mangod-created sneakers instead of paying the $14,000-16,000 asking price they are currently seeking.
Another moral dilemma comes with the claim that the skin pattern of another animal like a caterpillar can simply be transferred to the skin of a member of an alternate species. It’s simply not possible. What is possible is a genetic modification to match such patterns, but the line is fuzzy as to how “natural” this transferral really is. It seems that the company is just as capable of making up completely different designs as it is transferring over some of nature’s more beautiful works. Where the ethics lie in this claim is another question altogether.
So, what do you think?