Shrooms for Fashion and Future
by Chloe Warren
Back in March of 2021, Stella McCartney released a new line that took both the fashion and environmental communities by storm. They debuted their first products using Mylo threads, an alternative to leather made with mushroom roots. The week following this release, Adidas, Hermés, and many other iconic brands arrived on the scene with promises of new lines using vegan leather made from mushrooms. This is a huge wave of materials innovation that has only just begun in the fashion industry!
You might be asking yourself, what’s so great about this? Isn’t there already vegan leather? While there are alternatives to this material, all of them require unnecessary amounts of energy and materials for production (most of which aren’t recyclable as you may believe), which you can read about here.
You can compare mushroom leather to vegan leather much like how we think of oat milk to non-dairy milk substitutes. Oat milk uses significantly less water than almond milk during production, and mushroom leather uses significantly less energy. This is because the process in which the material is created is an entirely biological, naturally-occurring process that requires no light; so the only energy being used for the production is that which the factory requires for functionality as well as dehydrators to dry the naturally occurring threads.
How much waste is this creating? Not much! Mushrooms can be propagated and the part of the mushroom that is being used is a piece of the roots. So this is up to the individual suppliers, but in theory, they should never have to end a mushroom’s life cycle earlier than how nature intended. Additionally, fungi can be fed industrial byproducts like sawdust which utilizes materials that would have otherwise been wasted.
To see a more robust rundown of how this material is processes check out this site.
As of now, we do know that it is not the perfect solution (mostly because it requires a lot of water for production even though it has proven to be scalable), but we do know that it is part of the larger solution to how we can change and redesign the everyday materials we use to be sustainable, rather than working against materials that were never made with sustainability or recyclability in mind.