mushroom with white spots

You’re not tripping, mushroom leather really is coming to your wardrobe

Featuring image from Unsplash, Florian van Duyn

There is no escape from the ‘shroom boom’ that has taken over our headlines. Everywhere we look we are seeing the rising trend of mycelium; drinking it in our tea, getting the latest face cream, or even illuminating our homes with mycelium-made lamps.

Mycelium itself is the thread-like structure that enables mushrooms to grow, much like the roots of a tree. The mushroom is the spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, essentially the reproductive structure. Mushrooms are now entwining themselves into our wardrobe with the rise of the fungi fashion revolution.

Commonly associated with its psychoactive attributes, mushrooms offer us more than pulling us down a rabbit hole as depicted by Lewis Carroll. Through the help of ‘psilocybin’, the naturally occurring psychedelic compound, you may encounter yourself chatting with a Cheshire cat whilst on a magical mind-bending adventure. Researchers are also looking into the medicinal properties of psilocybin as a potential treatment for mood and anxiety disorders.

Psilocybin is only present in one categorized group (or family) of mushrooms. There are thousands of groups of mushrooms and with this, comes thousands of effects. For example, lion’s mane mushroom can help to boost cognition, while reishi mushroom helps to enhance our immune system. The possibilities that mycelium presents us with are endless and the world is adapting to growing curiosity with industries looking at how they can adopt the latest trend.

Featuring image from Unsplash, Nathan Karsgaard

Always on trend, the fashion industry is quickly embracing the shroom boom and all of it’s potential.  The garment industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions, therefore it was only a matter of time before regenerative innovation through the form of mushroom material was underway. 

Fungi fabric involves the participation of both scientists and fashion designers. It is produced by mixing mycelium with an organic substrate (such as sawdust). Mycelium then obtains the necessary nutrients from the substrate and then as it grows, binds all the particles together. The composite material can then be harvested, treated and colored to appear like animal leather, with any leftover byproducts being composted.

Creating leather this way has moral and environmental benefits – animal leather requires cows; a single cow releases 220 pounds of methane each year, a gas 28 times more potent than CO2 and livestock alone is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gases. Plastic alternatives may not share the same ethical implications, however, the persistence and toxicity of plastic bring with it mass environmental destruction.

Fungi is a great alternative to both – it is compostable and naturally abundant, reduces water usage by up to 99%, uses no animal products, can be grown over the course of two weeks, and helps protect our vital ecosystems, such as the Amazon, which is perishing  with the ever-growing need for livestock.

Meet the designers leading the fungi fashion revolution

With more and more brands seeking alternative ways to produce apparel, it would seem no surprise that major fashion labels have become interested in the environmental and ethical benefits of mushroom leather as a resource. Last year, four brands including Adidas, Stella McCartney, Lululemon and Kering all invested in the experimental material. 

They invested a reported seven-figure sum into the textile Mylo, produced by Bolt threads. The four fashion powerhouses are part of the Mylo consortium in a pledge to bring the radical material to consumers as quickly as possible, and here are the products they have pioneered so far!


Stan Smith Mylo™

Adidas has utilized nature’s natural resource for its latest concept shoe; Stan Smith Mylo. Looking towards a circular future, Adidas is hoping to move away from fossil fuel-based resources and instead replenish the world with materials that can ultimately return to the earth. The release date of the shoes is yet to be unveiled by the brand, however, we are seeing important steps in the right direction for a less destructive future.

Stella McCartney

Stella McCartney x Mylo™️

It may come as no surprise that fashion-conscious Stella McCartney is on board the vegan leather mycelium train! She has created the first Mylo™️ garments created using vegan leather. This lab-grown suit, which includes a black bustier top and utilitarian trousers, is an example of what the future might look like. The suit itself is not for sale but showcases what’s to come as the industry adopts innovative strategies to protect Mother Earth.


Lululemon yoga mat x Mylo™

Yoga is all about reconnecting with the world around you and what better way to do that than on the world’s first yoga mat made from Mylo™ material. Lululemon unveiled their concept mat earlier this year, offering a sustainable alternative to the ones used currently. Come early 2022, you will be able to purchase the brand’s two bags featuring Mylo™ material – the lululemon Meditation and Yoga Mat Bag, and the lululemon Barrel Duffel Bag. Sustainable innovation will lead the green revolution and for the first time, we are witnessing a universal movement towards sustainability, with Lululemon unveiling its commitment.

These brands are not the only ones recognizing the incredible benefits that mycelium leather offers the fashion industry. French luxury brand, Hermès has collaborated with MycoWorks, and after three years in the making, has developed a luxury handbag through the combination of nature and biotechnology. Art, technology and a passion for the future of materials all played their role in its production, and its result is paving the way for the next generation of biotech materials.

Hermès x MycoWorks

Without mycelium, we would not be here. It is the very essence of nature, providing nutrients and water to trees and plants through interlaced underground webs that span huge distances. Mycelium leather encapsulates all things luxury, ethical, natural and revolutionary. It offers us a way to untangle ourselves out of the current destructive web and entangle ourselves within the web that facilitates the natural world.

Story by: Scarlett Buckley

Header image by: Florian van Duyn/ Upsplash