Environmentally Sustainable, Innovative Leather Made from Mushrooms

In this modern age of development and human progression, consumers are searching for more environmentally sustainable and ecologically acceptable products. This is evident in the recent advancements in the fashion industry with many manufacturers and distributors opting for more maintainable goods to deliver to an ever-increasing demanding public. With a collective prerequisite for the industry to adopt the aforementioned standards, many companies have researched new ways to provide a product that considers the needs of both people and the planet.

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Bolt Threads, a bio tech company best known for its development of the synthetic spider silk material known as Microsilk has released another material that is both sustainable and profoundly intriguing. Mylo, is the firms recent release, a synthetic leather that is made primarily of the compound mycelium.

Titillated? Mycelium is the underground root structure of mushrooms. It grows as tiny threads that form vast networks under the forest floor. From the mycelium cells, which is grown in collaboration with environmental firm Ecovative, Bolt Threads have developed Mylo by creating an optimal set of conditions for growing and ultimately self-assembly of a material that shares the feel and look of a supple and sustainable piece of animal leather that is also strong, and abrasion resistant.

The process further broken down begins like this, using corn stalks and other supplemental nutrients, the mycelium is fed and grown in a precisely controlled environment where elements such as temperature and humidity are specifically adjusted to best suit growing conditions. This encourages the roots to grow in an upward direction that then self-assembles into an organised mat of interconnected roots and cells. From there a natural tanning process is initiated that determines how thin or thick the final product is, once this occurs the growing process is complete, and a final design step of imprinting on the leather is done.

Unlike the Microsilk material mentioned earlier, Mylo requires no engineered yeast to produce the final protein material, it is all natural. With the control of the growing conditions and the use of wild spores there is absolutely no genetic modification of the final material properties.

All of this is done in a matter of days, unlike traditional forms of leather manufacturing which takes years to develop. Additionally, there is completely no material waste in the production process, whereas other synthetic leathers or the so called “pleathers” are manufactured using numerous toxic chemicals. Finally, this product is completely bio degradable unlike other tanned animal leathers.

Bolt Threads is still developing this process and is looking to release its first hand bag made out of Mylo in June, however, it is working closely with members of the fashion industry to develop a product made out of the material sooner. In fact, At the Victoria and Albert Museum’sFashioned from Nature” exhibit that opened this week in London, the museum will not only be displaying the brown Microsilk pieces made in collaboration with Stella McCartney for 2017 Paris Fashion Week, it will also be debuting The Mylo Falabella Prototype One hand bag.

This product is extremely exciting due to the fact that it can be used as a sustainable replacement to traditional leather, so products such as wallets, bags, jackets and so forth can be made from mushrooms. Furthermore, as is the case with traditional leather Mylo can be dyed and will patina over time.

According to Dan Widmaier, Bolt Threads CEO and Co-Founder, the firm’s goal is to help find an alternative to traditional manufacturing materials. “What drives us is the idea that there are some really big problems on this planet that need to be solved. And we’re going to try and do our part to solve as much as we can.” With the combination of Earth’s population rapidly increasing and the swelling number of middle-class consumers with disposable income, now is the time to look for more sustainable alternatives.

While this doesn’t necessarily solve all the world problems it can provide an outlet to eliminate some of the concerns that many individuals have been predicting for years. There is no doubt that other firms will be innovating with equally interesting and unusual base materials to provide products to attempt to meet mankind’s insatiable demand, but until then companies such as Bolt Threads and Ecovative have and are developing products that keep us not only up to date from a style perspective, but also in the sustainability department as well.