Mushroom Fiber Leather has all the Versatility of Natural Leather without any of the Hassles

Everyone is seeking a share of the $33.7 billion synthetic leather market in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 8% through 2030, according to market research firm Grand View Research. Most of these hides are made of plastic, although vegetarian options now include cowhide-like materials made from alternatives such as aloe vera and apple peel.

But mushrooms have proven to be the most interesting and most viable alternative, as they contain mushroom fibres, a network of fungal hyphae that naturally spreads in forests and under tree bark.

What is vegetable leather?

Fungal microfibers are as tough as skin, as their cell walls contain chitin, one of the tough polymers also found in shrimp shells. The filaments of mushroom fibers branch off as they grow, fuse and intertwine to form the basis of a very durable material.

A network of mushroom fibers that anchor a single scaly plant, such as one that grows on tree trunks in the form of shelves, can be used by a network of mushrooms that anchors a single scaly plant, such as one that grows on tree trunks in the form of shelves, said Gavin MacIntyre, co-founder and chief commercial officer of Ecovative Design, a company that specializes in applying mushroom fiber technology. It supports the weight of the entire tree trunk weighing about 100 kilograms.

Anisotropy
McIntyre showed that different types of mushrooms confer different physical properties, some of them being more flexible than rigid or withstanding tensile strength more than their ability to flex. “We have more than 500 independent strains in the company’s strain library, which probably represents hundreds of unique species,” said Ecovitiv Design’s chief commercial officer.

Ecovital Design announced in May a deal with fashion company Wolverine Worldwide, whose portfolio includes footwear brands such as Merrill and Sperry, to use Forager leather made from mushroom fibers. It also launched a similar partnership in December with clothing company PVH, owner of the Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein brands.

‘Natural’ goods are no longer necessarily ‘ethical’

On July 7, British designer Stella McCartney launched a $2,950 version of the FRAME handbag made of Milew, a “synthetic” material derived from the San Francisco Bay area. Fungi are produced by the company “Bolt Threads”. Biotech company Mycoworks has also developed the ‘Reishi’ leather, which hat designer Nick Fouquet used to make the $810 Reishi Boletus hat, which he introduced on July 18. Meanwhile, Hermes will launch a travel bag made of “Sylvania” leather in the coming months, another material derived from mushroom fibers produced in cooperation with “Myco Works”.

tuning properties
Plastics are often used in textiles and even leather to make them more durable and flexible, but Myco Works takes a different approach with Reishi leather. Matthew Scullen, the company’s CEO, has shown that it can fuse a fabric such as cotton with fungi as it grows to give the latter different properties. “We can adjust properties like folds, smoothness or texture because the fabric helps force the fungus cells to form entirely new structures that don’t look like the naturally produced fungi in the forest and don’t look like fabric either; they grow into a one-of-a-kind product,” Scullen said.

The uses of ‘Reishi’ leather were obvious to Fouquet who was so excited when he received the first batch of leather that he made a hat after 24 hours. Fouquet had studied environmental sciences and sustainable development before majoring in hat-making, so “being able to embed those sciences in my field is like a full circle for me,” he says.

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The ability of mushroom fibers to grow quickly has a great deal of potential as well as quality, as they can spread remarkably quickly, as can mushrooms that appear overnight after a rainstorm. Myco Works is building a $107 million factory in Union, South Carolina, that will be able to produce more than 93,000 square meters of reishi hides annually when it opens next year.

Ecovitiv Design can also grow a 27 x 1.8 meter (about 50 square meter) ready-to-tan patch of mushroom fibers to make Forager hides in just nine days using technology that can be implemented in existing mushroom culture facilities.

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Ecovitiv Design’s first dedicated farm will be able to produce approximately 290,000 square meters of Forager hides annually from 4,200 square meters of land.

McIntyre finds it as impressive as these numbers sound because “animal hides are estimated at 2.9 billion square meters annually, which is an absurd amount that is thrown away from our meat eating habits.”

The lack of animal hides occupies a really low rank on the list of justifications for the production of artificial leather, as fashion industry analyst Veronica Bates-Casatley explained that: “5.5 million cow hides went to landfills in the United States alone during 2019,” approximately 25.5 million square meters of leather. . “If the goal is to replace plastic, that’s a big boon,” Cassatelli said.

Reviewer overview

Mushroom Fiber Leather has all the Versatility of Natural Leather without any of the Hassles - /10

Summary

Everyone is seeking a share of the $33.7 billion synthetic leather market in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 8% through 2030, according to market research firm Grand View Research. Most of these hides are made of plastic, although vegetarian options now include cowhide-like materials made from alternatives such as aloe vera and apple peel.

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