At Rayfish Footwear, customizing a pair of sneakers isn’t just a matter of assembling pre-selected textiles and dyes. The Thailand-based label provides customers with the tools to engineer a bespoke stingray of their own, which it will breed live, then harvest for its leather. But you won’t find any of Rayfish’s catalog in nature. The company utilizes a process it calls “bio-customization” to combine patterns and colors from dozens of animal species, resulting in a transgenic “designer stingray” like no other.
You don’t have to be a genetic scientist to wrangle your own phenotype. Rayfish uses a graphical user interface for would-be Doc Moreaus to drag and drop up to nine individual traits—the mottled coat pattern of a giraffe, say, with the scarlet hue of the multi-spotted ladybug. “Nature has already done the design work for us,” says Raymond Ong, a bioengineer and CEO of Rayfish, on his website. “All we have to do is identify the genes responsible for coloration and patterning, and then implant the ‘supergene’ cluster into fetal rays before they are born. As the ray grows over the course of several months, it gradually expresses the predetermined patterns on its skin.”