MycoWorks, a California-based biotech company, has created an eco-friendly, vegan leather derived from mushrooms. The leather turns mycelium, the microscopic, root-like threads of a mushroom that latch onto and colonize different substrates, into a material that imitates the look and feel of animal-based leather. And by being completely animal-free, the MycoWorks’ material is far more eco-friendly than traditional cowhide leather.
MycoWorks creates its rigid material using engineered mycelium cells. As the cells grow into 3-D structures, they become intertwined, forming a tough material, dubbed Fine Mycelium, which has the strength, durability and performance of traditional leather. The company primarily uses Ganoderma lucidum, better known as the reishi mushroom which is commonly used in natural remedies and teas. As a natural fiber, mycelium is particularly attractive because it can be grown and manipulated into a variety of textures and shapes. Unlike other types of mushroom-based vegan leather, Fine Mycelium is engineered to have the same look and feel as animal and synthetic leathers.
“It’s the first time that a company is able to produce a vegetal product which is matching or even exceeding the quality and durability and aesthetics of a natural one. It’s a super achievement,” noted MycoWorks board member Patrick Thomas, formerly of Hermès, in a statement.