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.
For generations, people have searched for a biodegradable, responsible, natural, and vegan alternative to leather for fashion. A new alternative is going to be available in the industry with the creation of mycelium leather products. In the article, The Next Leather Jacket Will Be Made from Mushrooms, Phil Ross, artist and founder of Mycoworks, discusses how he is bringing the art of growing leather from mushrooms over to fashion.
Mycoworks is creating a leather-like product from the skin of mushrooms, called mycelium. Ross has been working with mycelium as a medium for his art for thirty years. Through his fascination with reichi mushrooms, which he originally used for medicine, he discovered that it is easy to manipulate and create texture and patterns in the skin of the plant by changing what you feed it or by altering the environment the plant is growing in.
He has been able to produce furniture and faux stone from mycelium and eventually realized that he could also grow a leather-like product from the mushrooms that was comparable to many of the leathers used in the fashion industry. He has produced leather with alligator, ostrich, and other luxury textures that are popular in modern fashions and hopes to make the mycelium leather an alternative to animal hide for health and ethical reasons.
The mycelium leather products are perfect for fashion because they can be manipulated as they grow to take on nearly any texture or shape. Mycoworks has also been able to add zippers and other hardware to the leather while it grows, in order to attach it naturally and permanently instead of sewing it on later. Ross also claims that it can be molded and shaped more easily than cow hide, but he is working on creating a mycelium leather product that is closer to the look and feel of cow hide since it is the most popular leather used.
Your next leather jacket may have a surprise up its sleeve. Just imagine the faces of people when they complement your jacket and you inform them that it’s made from mushrooms. You will feel great wearing it, knowing that it came from a sustainable, biodegradable, and responsible source that doesn’t involve cruelty or the mistreatment of animals.