Vegetable leathers have the potential to revolutionize the fashion industry. Today, MycoWorks, a California-based biotechnology company, has created a new eco-friendly vegan leather derived from fungi. Leather turns mycelium – threads of the root structure of fungi – into a material that mimics the look and feel of animal leather, reports Jess Cartner-Morley for the Guardian.
âThis is the first time that a company has been able to produce a plant product that matches or even exceeds the quality, durability and aesthetics of a natural product. It’s a great success â, Patrick Thomas, former CEO of HermÃ©s and member of the board of directors of MycoWorks. MP, said in a statement.
Although the material is mushroom-based, MycoWorks creates its rigid, patented material using modified mycelium cells. As cells transform into 3D structures, they become densely intertwined, ultimately forming a tough material, called Fine Mycelium, which has the strength, durability and performance of traditional leather, according to the MycoWorks website. The result differs from other types of vegan mushroom-based leather. Most mushroom leathers are made from a solid, compressed foam that the mycelium forms naturally, but without engineering it does not look and feel the same as other animal and synthetic leathers.
The fine mycelium can be grown in trays in a short time. These trays can be designed to fit a designer’s exact specifications, eliminating any waste from excess waste, the Guardian reports. After harvesting the fine mycelium, it is tanned and finished to resemble the unique grain of animal leather. The result is the product MycoWorks calls Reishi, a leather that is treated using chemistry without chromium, a chemical found in wastewater from tanneries, reports Frances SolÃ¡-Santiago for Refinery29.
Vegan leather has already made its debut in haute couture. In March 2021, luxury fashion brand HermÃ©s launched its Victoria bag, which featured MycoWork’s Fine Mycelium material, Olivia Rosane reports for EcoWatch. Other companies, including Adidas with their Stan Smith shoes made by Mylo and Lululemon with their mushroom-based yoga products, have also jumped on the green bandwagon, for example. Refinery29.
The use of vegetable leather comes at a time when scientists and innovators are trying to find solutions to the climate crisis and to animal agriculture. The manufacture of bovine leather wreaks more havoc on the environment than any other type of fabric – even plastic-based leathers – due to deforestation and methane emissions from animals raised for leather and meat, the Guardian reports. Cattle alone represent nearly 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, EcoWatch reports.
Other leathers of vegetable origin are already being studied. Ananas Anam materials companies create a natural textile called PiÃ±atex from waste pineapple leaf fibers, and Adriano Di Marti invented Deserttex, a soft leather-like material derived from cactus that can be used in industries. fashion and furniture.
However, some experts criticize mushroom-based leather because it is currently only available as a luxury item, such as double-sided cashmere and silk organza. For the material to be a truly sustainable option and to have a major impact, it would have to be accessible at a lower price, reports the Guardian. Likewise, skeptics wonder if mushroom leather companies can provide independent artisans with enough material to create products that respect their traditional craftsmanship, for example. Refinery 29.
Still, Fine Mycelium is carbon neutral, can be grown to order, and offers a sustainable option for manufacturers looking for durable accessories made from durable materials, the Guardian reports.
âWe have been trained as consumers to think in terms of a straight line through which we buy something, use it and throw it away. Fungi can inform fashion thinking on many levels. material innovation, but also the culture of creating endless new things, and what we can learn by thinking rather in terms of nature and cycles, âsays biologist Merlin Sheldrake, author of Tangled Lives: How Mushrooms Create Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, And Shape Our Future, to the Guardian.