Long gone are the days when real leather dominated the leather industry. The environmental impact and carbon footprint of leather are massive. This has made brands and consumers search for alternatives. This gave rise to vegan, plant-based leather.
As funding for vegan leather increased, alternatives were on the rise. Cork, wine, and pineapple leaves were some types of plant-based leather being experimented on. Of these, a unique approach combined lab-grown techniques and natural material.
Mushroom leather, or MuSkin, is currently a popular form of leather. This material is known to be stable and flexible. The leather-like quality of MuSkin has led to luxury brands investing and experimenting with the material in the fashion industry.
The versatility of the material is also being tested by using mushroom leather for furniture and bricks. As a PETA-approved vegan material, mushroom leather is an ethical alternative for brands focused on sustainability.
Is Mushroom Leather Eco-Friendly?
The main ingredient of mushroom leather is mycelium, the root part of fungi such as mushrooms. It grows as a tiny thread over wide areas of the soil. This mycelium is grown in the lab using cellulose as a substrate.
It takes about two weeks for the mycelium to grow to the size of a standard cowhide used for real leather. With controlled growth, the mycelium can be grown to the desired size and width. This is then converted to mushroom leather.
There are no chemicals used in the manufacturing process. The material is also 100% biodegradable. Post-growing mycelium, the entire material can be used to make leather. This leads to zero wastage, in the growth and manufacturing process.
Mushroom leather has a minimal carbon footprint as it is completely sustainable and eco-friendly. The growth of fungi is also carbon neutral as it captures and stores carbon that would otherwise be emitted to the atmosphere.
Is Mushroom Leather Durable?
The durability of different vegan leather is affected by the manufacturing process and the quality. The amount of plastic, resin, or biopolymer that holds the material together is also a deciding factor. This also offers resistance and durability.
In the case of mushroom leather, there is no form of plastic used in the top layer. The process of adding the top layer for durability is called tanning. Animal leather contains collagen for strength and flexibility.
The durability of mushroom leather depends on the brand producing it. Some brands add a layer of plastic, making the final product 80-85% biodegradable. In some cases, the tanning process includes layering mushroom leather with biopolymers.
Hence, mushroom leather is less durable than animal skin. Even with no tanning, mushroom leather is still resistant. This is due to the interlocking nature of the hyphae or mycelium used. The durability can also be enhanced by proper maintenance of mushroom leather.
Is Mushroom Leather Washable?
Mushroom leather is a non-woven material that is lightweight. In some cases, mycelium is woven together with felt and fabric to increase tensile and tear strength. However, maintaining mushroom leather is part of the sustainability it offers.
Mushroom leather is washable, but it is advised to read the instructions on the tag prior. Based on the type of product, the method to wash and instructions will be provided.
Pure mushroom leather is generally hand washed. The process involves using a soft, damp cloth and cold water to wipe over the vegan leather. Some vegan leather products use hot water, but cold water is recommended for mushroom leather.
Certain precautions are to be taken while washing mushroom leather. This type of leather should not be machine-washed. Using chlorine or strong detergent is not advised.
Post washing, mushroom leather must be air dried. As it is thermally labile, using the dryer or any form of heat can lead to drying out of the material. Ironing mushroom leather is also not recommended. It can lead to melting, fading, and drying out of the material.
Is Mushroom Leather Expensive?
The expense of mushroom leather depends on the availability of raw materials. It is also dependent on the brand, the type of product, and the country of origin. The current estimated price of mushroom leather is about $50 per square foot.
It is a lab-grown material, whose quantity depends on the order by the brand or customer. Many designers are favoring mushroom leather due to the shift to plant-based textiles. As it is currently in the state of development, the costs are higher.
As mushroom leather enters a state of mass production and sale, the cost may decrease. The expense of mushroom leather depends on the cut, the quality, and the seller. The current price of mushroom leather is above average compared to other types of vegan leather.
Is Mushroom Leather Waterproof?
Without undergoing the tanning process, mushroom leather is not waterproof. The plastic layer provides resistance. As it is absent in 100% mushroom leather, it may become sticky and uncomfortable when exposed to water.
Some types of mushroom leather use biopolymers or a layer of eco wax. This works as a water repellant. This provides resistance from any water intrusion during designing products with vegan leather.
In another example, a brand known as Bolt threads created Mylo™. This is a form of mushroom leather that includes a small amount of plastic. This confers the water-resistant property to mushroom leather. It may not be 100% waterproof, but mushroom leather can be made water resistant.
Are There Any Brands That Use Mushroom Leather?
There is a growth of accessible mushroom leather suppliers in the current market. Luxury and small-scale brands have started experimenting with mushroom leather. Brands have invested and bought mushroom leather in the fashion industry. Some of the major names include:
Known as an all-vegan brand, Stella Mc Cartney has experimented with mushroom leather. Releasing a utilitarian pants line with Mylo™, the launch was limited. Not having been released on a general scale, the brand plans to expand usage of mushroom leather in future collections.
The mushroom-based Falabella bag from Stella McCartney was featured back in 2018. This was prior to the release of the world’s first utilitarian pant line made from mycelium.
The brand prided itself on its travel bag which was made from cow skin hide. A more sustainable take on the same bag was released by the world-renowned brand. Titled Sylviana, the Victoria travel bag uses mushroom-based leather.
The mushroom leather was derived from the company MycoWorks. The company also aims to expand the usage of mushroom leather to other products.
Adidas was one of the first companies to start using mushroom leather. The brand released its iconic Stan Smith shoes using mushroom leather. All parts of the shoe such as the upper part, overlay, and stripes featured the Mylo™ mycelium leather.
The sneaker’s soles were made of rubber. The usage of mushroom leather for the shoe is a part of Adidas’s efforts toward an ethical wardrobe.
German-based engineering firm Nat-2™ showcases handmade, high-end fungi footwear. The brand uses mushroom leather for its vegan, fungi sneaker. The sneaker also includes eco cotton terrycloth, cork insoles, and rubber outsoles.
The brand collaborated with the company Zvnder, to create the material. As it is handmade, the process lasts for about a year, to create the bio textile. This innovative idea is the start of designers launching sustainable, vegan apparel.
Lululemon is an athletic-wear-based brand from Vancouver. The brand launched a yoga mat and two handbags made from mushroom leather. Using Mylo™ fabric, the yoga mat is a sustainable option against available yoga mats in the market. The Barrel Duffel bag is the second product released that uses mushroom leather.
Using material such as Mylo showcases the brand’s commitment to producing sustainable products.
In competition with other brands, Gucci developed its own vegan leather called Demetra. The leather for Demetra used a mycelium network of sheets that is thin and flexible. Gucci partnered with Mycoworks to create mushroom leather free of hazardous chemicals and chromium.
The Demetra fabric was used in the Ace Sneakers collection by Gucci. The brand is also showcasing the fabric in the Gucci Basket and Gucci Rhyton. This is a nod from the industry on sourcing animal-free leather solutions.
Gucci is looking to patent and trademark Demetra. It also aims to license it to other companies and fashion industry giants.
The mushroom market is expected to reach a value of over $50 billion by 2025. Mushrooms are used for a wide variety of purposes, and the newest initiative is to make vegan leather. The key to mass-producing mushroom leather is increasing production to a larger scale.
Luxury brands using mushroom leather are a start to increasing adoption and usage. Mycelium-based textiles involve eco-friendly growing materials. They also involve minimal petrochemicals in their manufacturing process.
Along with brands, consumers are gaining an understanding of being eco-conscious. Going about using real leather, as usual, can leave a devastating carbon footprint behind. In pursuit of a greener planet, usage of mushroom leather can be a contributive step.
See also: What Is PU Leather?
Main image credit: Stella McCartney The Frayme Mylo Mushroom Leather Handbag