Have you ever considered wearing mushroom fabric? Now, before you start thinking we're out of our mushy minds, hear us out...
Material made from mushroom mycelium is changing the future of fashion. It’s sustainable, durable, versatile, cruelty-free, non-toxic and can easily be manipulated to create different patterns, densities and textures.
But hold on a mushy-munching second – first, lets recap on what mycelium actually is…
We like to think of mycelium as the humble hero. The quiet achiever. If we were to liken fungus to a plant, mycelium would be the roots and the mushroom would be the flower.
And just like seagulls on a beach picnic… Mycelium is everywhere. It plays a vital role in the entire ecosystem by breaking down nutrients and absorbing carbon.
If you want to discover more about mushroom mycelium, check out this article on mycelium. Because today, we want to talk about fungi fashion – and why you should strut your stuff is this sustainable clothing.
What Is Mushroom Fabric and How Do You Make It?
Mushroom mycelium fabric can be used to create dresses, pants, purses, wallets, bags, hats, shoes, watch straps and more. And with its irregular pattern, its texture and appearance closely resembles leather – only it’s far better for the planet.
The process works by feeding the mushroom mycelium bio-substrates (a fancy way of saying the surface in which an organism lives and grows). The mycelium will feed on anything from sawdust to straw to old fabric (and grow within a matter of weeks!)
Yep, it eats our waste to make clothes. How’s that for sustainability?
As the mycelium and substrate combination grow, producers can mould and entangle it into different shapes, sizes and densities.
And now for the exciting part: producers use the mushroom hide to create all sorts of creative mushroom clothes and materials. The fabric is made to be waterproof and it lacks spores, so when your fungi fabric gets wet it won’t start sprouting new mushrooms (although, wouldn’t that be a look?)
What Are The Benefits Of Mushroom Fabric?
So mushroom mycelium fabric is making waves in the sustainable fashion world, but does it live up to the hype?
Let’s zoom in…
Mushroom Fabric Is Durable
Mycelium material is incredibly flexible and strong. In fact, it outperforms lamb, sheep and synthetic leather by a mushy mile – and it’s believed to be as strong as deerskin. Engineered in the right way, mycelium is also strong enough to make bricks, doors, flooring and cabinetry… Now that’s strong enough for my wardrobe.
Mushroom Fabric Is Compostable
Did you know that mycelium fabric can also be composted or fed to livestock? So once you’re done with your clothes, you can return it to the earth where it came from. Not only will it break down quicker than a tired toddler, the nutrients in your clothes will actually benefit the soil and plants.
Mushroom Fabric Is Versatile
Mushroom leather is incredibly versatile. Producers can manipulate the process to create a range of beautiful colours and finishes. It’s also possible to dye mushroom material without the use of harsh chemicals and toxins. This is unlike its leather rival, which requires nasty chemicals in its production, which can have adverse effects for both the producers and wearers. Yikes!
Mushroom Fabric Has A Short Growth Period
Mycelium has a short growth period of only 2 to 4 weeks. Now let’s compare this with leather: Each year in Australia up to 620 million animals are killed for human use. And here’s the ugliest truth: Cattle are typically killed at 2-3 years of age (which is significantly less than their natural life span) but far greater than it takes for mycelium to grow. Need we say more?
Mushroom Fabric Is Enginerable
If you needed another reason to convert to team mycelium, then feast your eyes on this fact: Mycelium is enginerable. This means that the density and characteristics of the material can vary depending on the type of substrate in which it feeds on. Just like humans, its appearance can change based on its diet.
Put simply, the mycelium gets stiffer when the substrate is harder to digest. This characteristic allows producers to customise the thickness… It can be as thin and delicate as a mushroom dress, or as thick as a mushroom lampshade.
Mushroom Fabric Is Anti-Microbial
Just when you thought mycelium fabric couldn’t get any better, did you know that it’s naturally antimicrobial? This means that it contains an agent that stops the growth of bacteria and mould. In other words, your clothes stay clean and fresh for longer. Less laundry? Sign us up!
Mushroom Fabric Is Good for the Planet
Mycelium products have a very low environmental footprint. They feed on agricultural waste, require minimal water and they're often grown in dark factories with mild temperatures so there's minimal energy costs. And of course, it benefits the earth when composted.
Mushroom Fabric: Sustainable Clothes For A Greener Future
So there you have it – we haven’t gone mushy mad, but we’re actually staring at the future of sustainable fashion. And there are a number of companies that are at the forefront of the movement, including MycoWorks and Bolt Threads (and rumours have it even Patagonia have plans to jump on the bandwagon).
Because let’s face it. It’s unlikely that sustainability will ever outcompete the desire for consumption. And that’s why mushroom fabric offers a shimmer of hope, it’s a way to continue on the path of consumerism without harming the planet in the process. There are no losers in this game.
Written by Shane and Ash, the scientists, mushrooms farmers and garden enthusiasts behind Natura Mushrooms.