The leather industry has gotten a bad rap for sustainability and has been proven to have a negative impact on our environment. But what if having a new leather bag didn’t have to mean choosing between pleather, vegan leather, or supporting unsustainable farming practices? You may remember this post we did a while back on Pinatex®, a leather alternative made from pineapple leaf fibers, but today we’re talking about another alternative—mycelium. MycoWorks has set out to create a replacement for leather made from animal hides with their mycelium-based mushroom leather. This sustainable leather alternative promises to solve the problems of synthetic alternatives. This is great news, as leather from livestock has a huge negative ecological footprint.


Why Search for Another Leather Alternative?

Not only is leather a durable textile, but many love the look and feel of leather. Since the first synthetic leather replacements came on the scene, many of the alternative and vegan leathers have a smaller ecological footprint. However, there’s a big problem – disposal of leather replacements is just as much of a problem as the disposal of other synthetic plastics. Plastics in our environment are becoming a huge ecological problem.


What Is Mushroom Leather?

Incidentally, mushroom structures that resemble roots, called mycelium have a similar polymer to that contained in crab shells. If mushrooms are grown on waste – notably sawdust or agricultural waste, then the mycelium they form creates a thick mat that is then treated so that it resembles leather.

The big news about this is that the growing and harvesting of mushroom leather is extremely sustainable. Because it grows on biproducts of the agriculture or lumber industry, it is converting what would otherwise become waste in our environment into materials that are useful to us. It also only takes a few weeks to grow and create. The process can be completed fairly simply with minimal materials – making it available to independent artisans as well as larger companies.


Is Mushroom Leather Durable?

One complaint many have, particularly when it comes to fast fashion leather substitutes is that the counterpart isn’t as durable as leather and that it starts looking threadbare fairly quickly. Mushroom leather not only looks like the real thing, but it appears that it is just as durable as the animal-based version. In fact, it turns out that it lasts just as long as cowhide competitors. This is great news for bag makers, cobblers, and others who have traditionally worked with leather as their textile of choice. They do not have to sacrifice quality to become more sustainable in their production methods.


How Soon Might You Be Able to Get Your Hands on Mushroom Leather Products?

Adidas is working to create sneakers using mushroom leather, but they’re not the only company working with Bolt Threads to create garments and products from this sustainable textile. Stella McCartney, Hermès, Kering, and Lululemon are all working on products made from mushrooms. Natalie Portman and John Legend are just two celebrity investors supporting this development. The first products made with mushroom leather should be available within the coming several months—stay tuned!