From the makers of imitation spider silk comes a new eco-friendly material: mushroom leather. Invented by Bolt Threads, the material is called Mylo—short for mycelium, the fungi filaments that are used to create the leather.
Not only does it look like real leather, but it feels like it too, according to the California-based company. For the past nine years, Bolt Threads has been using biotechnology to take materials found in nature and transform them into never-before-seen textiles. As the company prefers to put it: “Animal leather is so 1st century.”
Bolt Threads partnered with biomaterials company Ecovative to license the technology. Mycelium cells are grown in a lab, and different variables like temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels are controlled to create a large fibrous network that looks a lot like leather, Fast Company reports.
“We cut it into slices, and it goes through a process not dissimilar to how animal hides are tanned to become leather, except it’s more environmentally friendly,” Dan Widmaier, founder and CEO of Bolt Threads, explained.
By tweaking the growth process, they can change the strength, durability, and suppleness of the leather.
While mushroom leather might not sound like the most luxurious material, the company has found an unlikely ally in the fashion industry. English designer Stella McCartney, daughter of Paul McCartney, crafted a handbag out of Mylo that has been dubbed the Falabella Prototype One. It’s currently on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which is also showcasing bags that McCartney created for Paris Fashion Week using Microsilk, Bolt Threads’s imitation spider silk material. In an effort to reduce the consumption of real silk, which typically involves the killing of silkworms, McCartney even created a spider silk dress.
Mylo's introduction comes at a time when many haute couture labels are looking to market their products as sustainable. Gucci has been fur-free since last year and it also launched a line of sunglasses made from a biodegradable material. Across the industry, many other luxury labels have opted for alternate, eco-friendly materials. (Pineapple "leather" has been around for a couple of years now.)
Bolt Threads will also be releasing its own Mylo handbag, for which a limited-edition pre-sale will begin in June.
[h/t Fast Company]