There have been attempts to use plant materials in clothing instead of animal fabrics like fur and leather. Many vegan and eco-friendly clothing companies have succeeded in making fashionable pieces that are safe for the environment, and one of the latest trends in vegan clothing is mushroom leather. Artist Phil Ross is leading the way in this trend and makes clothing and accessories from the skin of the mushroom.
Ross is growing mycelium, or mushroom root structures, in a number of conditions. He and his team want to make the mycelium look like the skin from animals like snakes, ostriches and cows, and claims that making mushroom leather is less labor-intensive than animal leather. Of course, this vegan leather also leaves less of a carbon footprint and is biodegradable.
The tissue of the mushroom can all be manipulated while it’s growing. This means that while the mushroom is incubating it an be manipulated. Fashion designers can add features like hooks and zippers to the vegan leather during the incubation phase, and it’s even possible to change the texture of the material during this phase. Ross shares that the mushroom leather has an elasticity that animal hide doesn’t have, and recently debuted the first mushroom leather wallet from Mycoworks.
Mycoworks is an example of how artistry can inspire an industry. Ross asserts that this “artist survival strategy” is actually more valued in the corporate world than in the art community.
Ross has been making clothing and accessories from mycelia for almost three decades, and initially became interested in reichi mushrooms because of their health benefits. However, he quickly discovered that he could grow sculptures by feeding mushrooms waste materials and sawdust, and has even created furniture from mycelia.