The future of fashion is taking root, right now, in the laboratory, where scientists are managing to copy the look of leather from a vegan material with infinite promise: mycelium.
It is in the depths of nature that a future more in tune with it is played out. Designers and scientists are beginning to turn to a vegan material that imitates the look of leather, made from the "root of the mushroom", mycelium.
The end of animal leather
Many designers now prefer alternatives to animal materials like leather and fur. "In addition to being extremely cruel, animal husbandry is responsible for 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions and leads to the deforestation of vital ecosystems, such as the Amazon rainforest," says Stella McCartney, a leading figure in ethical luxury fashion for over twenty years. The solution lies in plant-based options. Recently, one of them, which has every chance of revolutionizing the next decade, seems to meet the specifications of fashion houses. It is under our feet...
The mycelium in the viewfinder of fashion
With a nice symbolism, since, as introduced by the fascinating Netflix documentary dedicated to them, Fantastic Fungi, "mushrooms represent rebirth, regeneration". You have to dig even deeper: "The essence of the mushroom grows underground, composed of long threads. These grow one cell at a time. They divide and redivide (...). This mass is called a mycelium", summarizes the journalist Eugenia Bone in the film. It is with these roots, described as "soil magicians" by mycologist Paul Stamets during a TED Talk in 2008, that Bolt Threads, in collaboration with Stella McCartney, has been working for six years to make the "leather" of the future. "The mycelium grows in a lab in just two weeks, with natural ingredients and using only green energy," says the designer. It is natural and biodegradable and has a near-zero carbon footprint. A considerable advance compared to the vast resources required to raise livestock.
A material already exploited by creators
Thanks to biotechnology, the alliance between the Californian company and the British designer has given birth to an unprecedented material, which reproduces the look, texture, and weight of the animal's skin with an accuracy never achieved before: Mylo™️. In 2018, the first prototype was presented at the London exhibition "Fashioned From Nature", with a variation of the iconic Falabella bag. Three years later, Stella McCartney revealed the first outfit based on this innovation highlighted the same year at COP26. Her Spring/Summer 2022 runway show featured the Frayme bag as the centerpiece, the world's first model made of Mylo™️. In addition, the designer and Bolt Threads signed an agreement with the Kering Group, Adidas, and lululemon, to extend the roots of mushrooms into all strata of fashion: the first shoots resulted in 100% vegan three-stripe sneakers, as well as a yoga mat and two new-generation bags unveiled by lululemon, a sporty label prized by yogis from Paris to Los Angeles. At the same time, Hermès launched Victoria, a bag made of Sylvania, a material developed using the Fine Mycelium biofabrication technology of American start-up MycoWorks. And this is just the beginning...