If you’ve never heard of mushroom leather, get ready to have your mind blown. To reduce the environmental impact of leather, a team of scientists decided to create a vegan alternative. After hours of research and testing, they came up with Mylo, a cruelty-free mushroom leather that doesn’t compromise on appearance.
The soft, supple texture resembles the feeling of genuine leather while avoiding its devastating environmental impacts. As the population continues to grow and resources dwindle, it’s critically important to adopt sustainable practices. Thankfully, Mylo requires significantly less land and emits fewer greenhouse gases than raising livestock for leather.
The vegan leather’s secret ingredient is mycelium, the underground network system of fungi. Mycelium’s dense, fast-growing fibers provide a durable, sustainable ingredient for various products. Recently, scientists have realized that the sprawling, interconnected structure growing beneath our feet could benefit the leather industry.
Mycelium branches off in every direction through soil, plants, and trees. Fungi, including mushrooms, help in the decomposition process of organic matter, supplying plants with nutrients. Picture the branches of a tree that provide support for fruits to grow.
In the same manner, mycelium spreads out in a massive root-like underground structure and allows species across the globe to flourish. Without fungi, entire ecosystems would collapse, and life would cease to exist. Luckily, mycelium is infinitely renewable, so some companies have shown interest in using it for their products.
Company Develops Mushroom Leather As a Sustainable Alternative
Bolt Threads, the creator of the mushroom leather Mylo, developed a process to grow mycelium indoors using vertical farming. Scientists at the materials innovations company start by feeding mycelial cells sawdust and other organic materials. They control the humidity, temperature, and other growing conditions to create the ideal atmosphere for mycelium.
Next, they spread it out on mats, where it grows into a foamy, cascading layer. After harvesting the mycelium, the team composts the byproducts, then processes and dyes the mycelium sheet. Finally, it becomes the mushroom leather known as Mylo, which transforms into various products like handbags, shoes, and wallets.
Scientists and engineers at the California-based company harvest the mycelium in less than two weeks. They utilize only mulch, air, and water in a facility powered entirely by renewable energy. Compare that to the resource-intensive process of raising livestock, which often takes years. Plus, it requires much larger inputs to receive the same outputs as mushroom leather.
Bolt Threads hopes to scale its production by working with supply chain partners committed to renewable practices.
Benefits of the Vegan Leather
The Mylo vegan leather prevents environmental destruction while also benefiting human health. Scientists utilize rigorous Green Chemistry principles when processing and finishing the mushroom leather. They have partnered with world-renowned experts in tanning and dyeing who have received global sustainability certifications.
They avoid harmful substances like chromium and DMFa, two of the most toxic chemicals used to create animal and alternative leathers. Also, unlike synthetic leather made from damaging fabrics and PVC coatings, Mylo material does not contain petroleum-derived products.
While Mylo material does contain small amounts of plastic, it isn’t petroleum-based like other synthetic leathers. Even animal hides contain fat liquors, plasticizers, and coatings, comprising up to 40% of their total weight. In comparison, Mylo is certified vegan and bio-based, produced chiefly from natural products. DIN CERTCO performed bio-based testing for Mylo’s certification.
Bolt Threads hopes to eliminate plastics from its products in the future. Currently, the company strives to increase its bio-based content while ensuring customer satisfaction. At some point in 2022, Bolt Threads will perform a full impact assessment of Mylo material to share with customers.
Three Forward-Thinking Companies Using Mylo Mushroom Leather
Several companies have launched product lines with the Mylo vegan mushroom leather, such as lululemon and Stella McCartney. Others, like Adidas, plan to release products that contain Mylo one day.
Luxury fashion designer Stella McCartney became one of the first brands to utilize Mylo in her products. She debuted the first-ever Mylo clothing in a Vogue editorial and recently released a handbag created with mycelium. She offers a limited supply of these handbags on her website.
Athletic apparel brand lululemon also jumped on the mushroom leather bandwagon. The company revealed the world’s first Mylo yoga accessories, including a yoga mat comprised entirely of undyed Mylo. The company said the yoga mat highlights Mylo’s future potential for use in sustainable products. They also offer a meditation bag and a duffel bag featuring the Mylo mushroom leather.
“Leveraging a material like Mylo demonstrates our commitment to creating a healthier future through low-impact products, paired with the performance-driven and high-quality design we’re known for.” — Sun Choe, lululemon Chief Product Officer
Finally, Adidas recently debuted its first-ever shoe made from mushroom leather, the Stan Smith Mylo. The company reinvented its classic style with three perforated strips on the sides. The new look evokes nostalgia for anyone who wore Adidas as a kid. Now, customers can enjoy a more eco-friendly option made of mycelium and natural rubber.
The outer upper, perforated three stripes, heel tab overlay, and premium branding utilize mushroom leather. The shoe’s midsole is made with natural rubber to reduce its environmental footprint further.
In addition, world-renowned brands like Mercedes Benz, GANNI, and others have expressed interest in Mylo’s possibilities. Mushroom leather may one day become a staple ingredient for many industry leaders.
Final Thoughts on Mushroom Leather for Sustainable Fashion
Various industries have begun using mushroom leather in their products to help protect the environment. Bolt Threads, a materials innovations company in California, created a leather derived from mycelium called Mylo. Creating cruelty-free leather takes less than two weeks and uses far fewer resources than traditional leather.
Companies such as Adidas, lululemon, and Stella McCartney have already created products with unique mushroom leather. Bolt Threads foresees a bright future for the company as materials become scarcer and people count on renewable sources like mycelium.
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