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Say Hello to Biodegradable Leather Made from Mushrooms

You can eat your mushrooms and wear them too. The next big it-bag or cult sneaker could be made from mushrooms and it’s primed to be one of fashion’s most sustainable solutions to date. Ahead, we find out what the fuss is all about.  

Key Takeaways: Fungus is in Fashion 

In fashion’s latest quest to be more sustainable, designers are now turning to bioengineered materials made from living bacteria, algae, yeast and more importantly — fungi. Fashion giants like Adidas, Stella McCartney, Lululemon and Gucci’s parent company Kering, have joined forces to invest in Bolt Threads new material called 'Mylo', which is grown from a fungi called ‘mycelium’ that rivals the look and feel of leather.

A prototype of Stella McCartney's iconic Falabella bag, made with Mylo (Image courtesy: Bolt Threads)

What is Mylo?

Mycelium is the fungus mushrooms are made of; it is a branching network of threadlike cells that mushrooms use to sprout, much like the branches and vines that grow apples or grapes. The innovating company Bolt Threads have developed a state-of-the-art process to grow and transform mycelium into a high-quality and sustainable fashion alternative for commercially used leather. 

The process involves taking spores of mycelia cells and feeding them sawdust and organic material, which is then placed in a humidity and temperature-controlled environment. In a matter of 8-10 days, the mycelium grows into a foamy layer, similar to a big bag of smushed marshmallows. Mycelium is then harvested, processed and dyed sustainably to ultimately create Mylo. The resulting material has an unmistakable resemblance to animal leather, but with an unbelievably low environmental impact.

Creation of Mylo at Bolt Threads Lab (Image courtesy:

Just Like Leather, Minus the Impact

It’s no secret that the leather industry is riddled with unethical resource-intensive practices, with a large carbon footprint. Forecasts claim that in order to keep making leather wallets, handbags and shoes, the fashion industry needs to slaughter 430m cows annually by 2025. Furthermore, turning animal hide into leather also requires massive amounts of energy and dangerous chemicals, including formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and various finishes, some of them cyanide-based

Faux leather is not a cleaner alternative either. Imitation leather is actually petroleum-based plastic, aka polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is made with fossil fuels — and is not biodegradable.

This is where mushroom-based Mylo comes out on top. Unlike leather production, making Mylo doesn’t involve raising livestock or emitting any of the associated greenhouse gases or material wastes.

While imitation leather is petroleum-based, Mylo is fungi-based and does not require any toxic chemicals to be produced. 

Bolt Threads processing and finishing chemistries are intentionally evaluated and selected using Green Chemistry principles.  What’s more? Because Mylo is made from fungi, it is completely biodegradable and non-toxic.

Materials Borrowed from Nature, Not Robbed

Turns out, mushrooms aren’t the only foodstuffs that can be converted to fashion materials. Now, textiles are also being created from food waste of apples, oranges, bananas, coconuts, pineapples, grapes, kombucha tea, and even milk. Most of the materials are capable of degrading post-consumer use and can even be composted without leaving behind toxic residue.

The fashion industry is clearly a work in progress when it comes to sustainability, but the adoption of organic, plant-based and now — bio-based materials have left us feeling optimistic. It will be long before bioengineered materials can reach a commercially accessible scale, but until then, we are committed to manufacturing from the most sustainable fibres we can source while staying true to the premium quality customers have come to expect and love. 

Take a look at some of the certified organic and plant-based textiles that ZAVI uses to make its sustainable creations.


Published by: Vibhuti Vazirani/ 2021-03-03

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