When Fashion is Fungal
There is a large growing consumer demand for vegan lifestyle choices, with more concern for animal welfare.Could biodegradable clothes be a solution?
Mycelium is the underground network of thread-like branches growing beneath mushrooms and fungi, connecting every living plant and tree and facilitating the exchange of nutrients, breaking down decaying matter, regenerating the earth, and even sequestering carbon. It’s now understood that mycelium helps plants and trees “communicate” and support each other; in the documentary Fantastic Fungi, mycelium is aptly described as nature’s internet, or the “wood wide web.” It’s just as vast: For every step we take, there’s roughly 300 miles of mycelium stretching below the surface.
Phil Ross and his team at the San Francisco-based MycoWorks, a group of engineers, designers, and scientists, are developing products inspired by fungi's lattice-like “roots," called Mycelium. According to the MycoWorks website, mycelium is carbon-negative and can be naturally dyed to any colour, so your mushroom dress can be bright purple, fuchsia, or Cerulean blue if tan seems too subtle.
There are many good reasons why we should consider using mycelium fabric in the future. The fabric created from mycelium is non-toxic, waterproof, and fire-resistant. It can be as thin as paper for dresses and lamp shades, or incredibly thick for heavy-duty items, and in both cases, the end result is remarkably flexible and strong.
Would you consider to wear a mushroom all day?
People with sensitive skin will love that mycelium mushroom material is naturally anti-microbial (unlike other textiles, which are only made to be anti-microbial through an expensive process), according to the National Center for Microbiology, so sweaty workout gear and wearing it in the summer won’t create rashes or discomfort. In the production of mushroom fabric, no toxic chemicals or fertilizers are used and very little water is necessary, so the fabric is a game-changer for the environment.
Mycelium requires only a 3 to 4-week period to grow in full. So rather than extracting our materials from the ground, it's possible to grow and easily replenish them in a lab.
The Future of Fashion is Fungi
Up until now, if you wanted leather that wasn't made from animals, you've probably had to settle for plastic "pleather," which comes with a different set of environmental problems.
More than just an eco-friendly leather alternative, mycelium leather has luxury brands excited because of its remarkable quality. The hand of mycelium leather is so buttery soft and supple that Hermès, known for upholding the most stringent standards with its leather, is already experimenting with it.
Stella McCartney, the luxury conglomerate Kering, and the sportswear giants Adidas and Lululemon have joined together in a consortium to help Bolt Threads finance the development of a mycelium leather called Mylo
McCartney, who over the past two decades has set a high bar for the use of green materials, in March unveiled a prototype for a bustier top and utilitarian trousers handcrafted from Mylo panels laid on recycled nylon scuba. “I have always said that I don’t want anyone to know that the products we sell at Stella McCartney are not leather; they should stand shoulder to shoulder with the real thing,” the designer says. “With Mylo, this is something that is grown in labs, which is truly the future. If we can get this right and get a viable alternative to leather, then it can really have a huge impact on the planet.”
Considering the waste the fashion industry causes and the trend of ‘fast fashion’, textiles that are biodegradable are a welcome addition to our wardrobe.