Seaweed, pineapples, orange juice.. no, we’re not reciting our grocery list, these foods are popular contenders for fashion’s material innovation. The latest addition? Mushroom, or more specifically, mushroom leather. Love it or hate it, our favourite species of fungi is now an environmentally friendly alternative to animal leather, which, as we all know, comes with numerous adverse effects. The production cycle of traditional leather totals a substantial environmental cost, emitting greenhouse gases, using hazardous substances, and contributing significantly to deforestation. Additionally, there is a growing ethical concern regarding the questionable treatment of animals farmed in industrial processes. Such negative associations have contributed to the rise in popularity for faux leather, also known as vegan leather.
In 2019, Lyst reported that searches for vegan leather increased by 119% since October, and the term generated over 9.3 million social impressions. Growing consumer interest in sustainable fashion is reflective of the new wave of eco-consciousness, which is encouraging shoppers to become increasingly aware of their ecological footprint. Although by no means a new concept, vegan leather is a synthetic alternative, which also comes at a much lower price point. On the surface, it fares better ethically by preserving the welfare of animals, but it comes with its own negative attributes. Faux leather is made from polyurethane, a polymer made from fossil fuels, or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), another form of plastic. Because it doesn’t biodegrade, it poses the same disposal issues as any other plastic, therefore leaving the market wide open for other eco-friendly innovations.
Unlike the other vegan alternatives, Mylo is the new mushroom-derived leather that negates both the environmental and ethical dilemmas of traditional leather and it’s plastic derivations. Where a pair of leather shoes might produce 33 pounds of carbon dioxide pollution, mushroom leather is carbon neutral. Without the use of harmful chemicals, petroleum-based binders, PVC finishes and toxic dyes, the fungi leather is incredibly eco-friendly and also entirely biodegradable. Introduced in 2018 by Bolt Threads, Mylo leather is grown from the filament-based root structure of mushrooms, a substance called mycelium.he Silicon Valley startup carefully creates optimal growing conditions for the cells, directly controlling the properties of the material to condition thickness and shapes, making it entirely customizable. Additionally, Mylo grows in a matter of weeks, as opposed to animal hides which could take years—it’s also cheap to manufacture, making it both time and cost efficient for brands.
Although it is still a relatively new innovation, Mylo has already collaborated with the queen of green herself, Stella McCartney, to recreate the brand’s iconic Falabella bag. Named ‘Prototype One’, the one-of-a-kind piece was displayed at the ‘Fashioned from Nature’ exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in 2018. The introduction of Mylo coincides with a period of upheaval, as many designers both haute couture and high streek alike are looking to become more sustainable. The 2.5 trillion dollar fashion industry is a vital component in our global markets and, as iterated by governments worldwide, needs to take major steps in order to prevent the impending climate crisis. Now more than ever, there is an urgent need for sustainable innovations, and Mylo leather could very well be one of them.