Californian firm touts ‘mushroom leather’ as sustainability gamechanger
Vegan alternatives to leather could save more than just animals. The scientists behind fashion’s new latest must-have – the “mushroom leather” handbag – believe that mycelium, a material grown from fungi which can be engineered to look and feel like calfskin or sheepskin, could help save the planet.
Speaking to the Guardian before a talk at the Business of Fashion Voices conference in Oxfordshire, Dr Matt Scullin, CEO of biomaterials company MycoWorks, forecast that mushroom leather could be a sustainability gamechanger, “unlocking a future of design which begins with the material, not with the object”.
Fine Mycelium, a patented material which can be grown from fungi in trays in a matter of weeks, replicates the appearance and feel of leather while outperforming it in strength and durability. The material recently made its high fashion debut as an exclusive Hermès handbag.
“It can give the same emotional response as an animal leather. It has that hand-feel of rarity,” says Scullin. On a planet of finite natural resources, Scullin believes both the technology and the mindset of carbon-neutral, grown-to-order mushroom leather could be “revolutionary” – and have implications for innovation in manufacture beyond fashion.
Alongside Scullin at the conference will be Merlin Sheldrake, author of Entangled Lives: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures. Sheldrake, a biologist, is joining a lineup which also includes designers Vivienne Westwood and Tommy Hilfiger, “because I’m interested to talk to people in creative industries about how the possibilities of fungi can help open the mind to new ideas”. “I am excited to support the fashion world in its efforts to become more sustainable. There is so much potential in fungi to overcome some of the problems we face,” he said.
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