Mushroom fashion: mushrooms used as an alternative to animal skin

In the west, where cattle ranches have long ruled, cowhide may lose its luster.

“You can’t breed a cow to specification,” he said MycoWorks co-founder Sophia Wang. “Cows just do what they do. So that’s what’s remarkable about the natural material you can grow into shape. “

This material, an alternative to animal skin, is made from mushrooms, under the watchful eye of Bay Area technicians. A completely natural plant-based alternative, there are no environmental concerns or cruelty that can come with animal skins.

Bolt Threads is one of the few companies that produce mushroom skin through mycelium, an underground fiber network that is the basis of mushrooms. Partnerships with companies such as Lululemon, Stella McCartney i Adidasthe company turns heads with what their plant-based skin is capable of.

Mushroom skin, an alternative to animal skin, has been used in products designed by Lululemon, Stella McCartney and Adidas.

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But for now, expect to pay a premium for this experimental alternative. “It’s phenomenal material,” said co-founder Bolt Threads and CTO David Breslauer. “Everyone loves their skin, whether it’s their clothes or their car.”

Correspondent Lilia Luciano asked: “What do you think is the trajectory of this? Will it replace the skin? ”

“Sustainability will come from replacing the way we use a lot of skin,” Breslauer replied. “That doesn’t mean the skin will disappear, but we can’t continue hunting cows to train the population.”

Breslauer approaches this question from the perspective of scientists. He said leather is a huge industry to take over, but the fashion world has always embraced innovation, especially those that help fight climate change: “The fewer cows we raise industrially, the less emissions we will have,” Breslauer said. “So this is a huge impact on climate change, and for almost all major fashion brands. Their biggest contribution to greenhouse gas emissions are cows that make skin. And there is deforestation, loss of biodiversity, ecological collapse – the list goes on and on. “

But for consumers to accept mushroom skin, it must last, be durable, workable and – most importantly – look and feel like the right thing.

One of the hottest new ideas in fashion comes from mycelium, the fiber that forms the basis of mushrooms – a plant option that its manufacturers say is durable and has no worries about the environment or cruelty that can come with animal skins.

Bolt Threads

Beatrice Amblard, a leather craftsman with four decades of experience, said this is in line with the trend of finding plant alternatives to what we eat and wear. “I believe people are ready for change, they are ready for innovation,” she said. “For me, combining old techniques with biomaterials is an incredible opportunity.”

Describing what it’s like to work with mushroom skin, Amblard said: “This is amazing. It’s an amazing feeling. It combines the two. ”

She works with MycoWorks, another Bay Area company that forced the fashion industry to work twice as hard.

Wang and her co-founder MycoWorks Phil Ross have been pushing the boundaries of leather since 2003. They are proprietary Reishi leather looks close to the real thing. “I see that this material works wherever the skin goes,” Wang said.

Luciano asked, “What kind of testing are you doing to make sure it’s durable?”

“We are testing accelerated wear, exposing Reishi elements just to show that this material is competitive with leather in terms of durability, strength and resilience,” Wang replied.

Hermes Victoria bag, made from MycoWorks alternative to leather.


Their product finds purpose, from potentially life-saving sheets interwoven with bulletproof Kevlar, to incorporating conductive wires into fibers, enabling “smart” fashion that connects to your devices, and even leather woven with gold thread, redefining luxury.

Wang said: “We are working with our partners to actually develop our materials according to these customized needs, which is not something you can do with any other natural material.”

She said that if you can imagine a luxury brand, they probably worked with them – like Hermes, the high priest of French leather products. Company collaborated with a famous brand on the cult bag in 2021.

All this points to a future in which fashion without guilt could be the norm. And instead of traditional leather on the back, or in the hand, we’ll make room … for mushrooms.

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