New Vegan Leather Alert: Mushroom!

Updated: 5 days ago

We’ve covered plastic, cork, cotton, paper, and cactus based vegan leathers. The next trend we have spotted is highly sustainable and already is a meat replacement for many vegetarians. We are talking mushrooms!


Enjoy this read and, as always, click the numbers in square brackets to check out all the references!



The white "roots" are the material used to make the leather. Photo from Bolt Threads.


How is it made?


The leather is called mycelium leather. Mycelium is the white network of filaments (roots) that you usually find below a mushroom, not the actual little cap itself.


Once the producers grow enough mycelium they harvest it and add dyes and some chemicals to help bind the product. Then they compress it into long sheets, dry it, and finally they can emboss it with a print to look more like leather. They can also leave it the way it is as that texture itself it quite similar to leather.

Mycelium is naturally antifungal and antibacterial and it looks like it keeps these properties even after being processed [i]!



After having been compressed the leather is ready to be embossed. Photo from Bolt Threads.

What kind of environmental impact is there from mycelium leather?


Growing the mushrooms is considered “carbon neutral” because it takes minimal energy to grow them and they are often grown on agricultural waste [ii]. Mycelium grows quickly (we are talking weeks) and takes up less space than grazing cattle or growing more traditional plants. It can also be grown indoors in more industrial areas and doesn’t need to be competing with agricultural spaces.



Mushrooms need to be cool, dark, and tightly packed to grow. They can grow in regular warehouses!

I wasn’t able to find the details on what exactly gets added to the mycelium in production (I guess companies want to keep it all secret since it’s new tech). Every article and company bio I read said that the leather is fully biodegradable.


Companies who have been producing mycelium leather say that it is as durable as animal leathers (couldn’t find any third party testing on this yet). I think it is unlikely that it will have the longevity of animal leathers but only time will tell!



What does it look like?


It looks great! It comes in a number of different colours and can have textures imprinted into it to look even more like leather. I read a description of the texture as “suede-like” except when it is treated with wax to waterproof it which changes the feel slightly.



Mycelium Leather. Photo from Bolt Threads.

Who is using it?


A company that makes mycelium leather called MycoWorks recently partnered with Hermès to make the Victoria bag in Fine Mycelium. The bag will be available for purchase by the end of this year. Check it out here!


MycoWorks [iii] raised US$17,000,000 in venture capital in 2020 [iv] to expand their production so clearly people believe in the product!


Stella McCartney partnered with Bolt Threads [v] who created Mylo, a mycelium based leather. The products are just prototypes and aren’t for sale but they look cool! Click here to see them.


Bolt Threads has also partnered with Lululemon as well as Adidas to make sneakers which will likely be released next year.



Myclieum leather purse made by Bolt Threads.

Other stuff made of Mycelium


Packaging


Ecovative produces biodegradable packaging that is made of mycelium. A number of big companies like Ikea have said they will start using it to decrease their environmental impact. Check it out here.


Coffins


Dutch company Loop makes coffins that biodegrade with the bodies inside. It takes them only 7 days to grow each coffin! Take a look at them here.


Tiles


Mogu is a company that uses mycelium to make tiles for sound proofing walls and floors. Check them out here.



My thoughts


Super. Cool.


I hope that more products become available and that they aren’t limited to very expensive companies like Hermès and Stella McCartney. That said, if those companies are in your budget have at it!

Mycelium leather has a lot of potential to become a mainstay in the vegan leather world.


I also appreciate the flexibility of this product since it seems to be used differently by everyone and I’m sure creative people will find even more ways of utilizing it!



Love when you can put something on a pizza or make a purse out of it!

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