Words May Garland
Forget spring florals, mushrooms are the latest trend sprouting in the fashion industry. They are appearing everywhere from mushroom motifs on clothes to fungi face creams, and now mushrooms are used in material innovation. In light of the climate crisis we are facing, planet preservation is at the forefront of discussions in the fashion industry and these magical mushrooms may be our answer to making fashion more sustainable.
From ‘shrooms embellished on Bella Hadid’s T‑shirts, button mushroom Chanel earrings and fungi home decor, to reishi-laced skincare to fight inflammation and chaga coffee to boost immunity, we all seem to be going crazy for mushrooms! Fungi has proven to have immeasurable benefits for the body as well as becoming a groovy and trippy symbol in popular culture and now retailers are exploring the possibilities of producing fabric from fungi. Through the process of bio-fabrication, the underground roots of mushrooms called mycelium can be used to create sustainable alternatives to leather and suede.
In line with their new sustainability ethos, Adidas has launched Stan Smith Mylo, the first shoe of its kind produced from a mushroom-based material. The iconic Adidas shoe has been remade with a material, Mylo derived from mycelium and developed by the biotech company Bolt Threads. The resulting fabric is flexible, breathable and remarkably resembles animal leather. This makes it an ideal, ethical alternative to materials produced from animals and synthetic plastics, and marks a big step forward for sustainability in the fashion industry. Bolt Threads, Stella McCartney, Lululemon and Kering are also partners in the Mylo consortium developing the mushroom leather. Stella McCartney, known for her globally-conscious approach to fashion, produced the 2017 fungi Falabella bag and has even released the world’s first garment developed from Mylo and recycled nylon scuba. Hermès has also jumped on the bandwagon producing their trademark bags from reishi mycelium. Mushroom leather alternatives are taking the industry by storm and have inspired brands to take a more organic approach to material innovation with the sustainable shoes and clothing company, Allbirds announcing plans to develop a new shoe using leather derived from rubber tree sap.
In a time when it is essential that the fashion industry makes more eco-conscious decisions, fungi seems to be the ideal solution. As opposed to animal leathers which take a year to produce and consume a significant amount of water, Mylo mushroom-based leather can be produced in two weeks with a much lower carbon footprint as the production process even absorbs carbon out of the atmosphere. This mycelium-based textile also trumps many non-animal leather alternatives because it is produced from a natural substance rather than the synthetic alternatives derived from petrochemicals. Mycelium has even been used to clean up oil spills and could even become a new, biodegradable construction material.
The luxury market is not only creating fabric from fungi but using mycelium as inspiration for garment silhouettes. Van Herpen’s spring 2021 couture collection drew inspiration from the natural world and Merlin Sheldrake’s book Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds creating dresses with fanned silhouettes mimicking a chanterelle mushroom. Rahul Mishra had his own take on mushrooms for his spring 2021 collection, designing a line-up of minidresses compromising entirely of hand-embroidered mushrooms and layered flowing gowns mimicking shelves of fungi sprouting from trees.
In a tech-savvy world, the solutions to unsustainability seem to lie in the natural world. Without fungi, all ecosystems would perish and this resilient organism has proven to be a versatile resource in the world of fashion, showing to the world that re-connecting with nature can solve many problems in our lifestyle, promoting a healthier existence for ourselves and the planet. As stated by Francesca Gavin, curator of Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi, “mushrooms provide a contemporary metaphor for new ways of thinking and living in a more positive way with nature, they show how living in symbiosis with the world around us is the only route for survival”. This leaves us questioning is fungi fashion’s future?