How Fashion Can Swap Leather With Mushrooms


Stella McCartney, Balenciaga, and Hermès are introducing handbags, shoes, and coats made of mycelium leather; it’s an alternative to animal hides and is created from roots of mushrooms. This new fabric is made by companies like Bolt Threads and MycoWorks.

Will mycelium make it into mainstream?

Certainly, consumers today demand materials and fabrics that are alternatives to traditional leather. Nature friendly and environmentally friendly products are readily accepted by the sophisticated consumer who is searching for products that are non-animal.

The Business of Fashion states that “innovation takes time” but the fashion world will not wait. Major houses are looking for new fabrics alternatives that will attract customers. Most items are likely to be in limited quantities initially as companies experiment and use product from small start-up companies to test the opportunities out there. But, the movement is clearly underway. (Remember, it wasn’t so long ago that many consumers stopped buying and wearing fur.)

Many companies, including LVMH and Kering, see value in testing mycelium to see whether there is consumer acceptance. Unlike the leathers from animal hides, mushroom leather is made from mycelium which is the web structure that forms the roots of mushrooms underground. According to reports, that product is still very expensive and in limited quantities.

The first test will be mushroom handbags which Stella McCartney, Balenciaga, and Hermès are introducing in their collections.

In an article on the internet claiming that “wool is so yesterday”, and claiming that natural, vegan fabrics are taking over, Peta lists fabrics now in use. They are:

1. Organic Cotton – grown without harmful chemicals

2. Linen – can absorb up to 20% of its weight in moisture

3. Seaweed – introduced into cellulose fiber

4. Wood – Lyocell is made from wood pulp as a substitute for silk

5. Beech Tree Fiber – a variety of rayon made from fiber of beech trees

6. Hemp – grows without pesticides or chemicals and ideal for farming

7. Soybeans – Soy fabrics, also known as vegetable cashmere, offers a direct alternative to fine wool

8. Coconut fiber – a company called Nanollose will soon make warm, soft clothes with this fiber

9. rPet – which stands for recycled polyethylene terephthalate or recycled polyester, valued for its recycled features

More and more clothing brands have garments that are made from natural materials and avoid using harmful chemicals in their processing so they ultimately have a less harmful effect on the ecosystem. In many instances, such alternatives are reported to improve soil quality and often use less water. Some fibers like organic cotton are even easier to clean.

POSTSCRIPT: Many young people worry about nature and the environment and will buy animal-friendly garments. Some will not eat meat – nor wear garments from animals – and even reject any product that remotely suggests abuse of any kind. Nonetheless, I do not think that leather will go quickly out of fashion, but I believe that steadily there will be more concern about sourcing of products.


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