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High-end French fashion brand Hermès recently joined forces with Californian mycelium-based material startup MycoWorks to unveil a mushroom-based ‘leather’ travel bag made from fine mycelium. The recent collaboration saw the very first bag created with fine mycelium, a patented technology from the alt material upstart.
Mycelium is the fine network of threads that form the vegetative part of the organism that produces mushroom and ‘Fine Mycelium’ sheets are those that are grown and fine-tuned in a cultivation process in an effort to create biomaterials that can deliver on fundamental qualities of leather such as versatility and performance in strength, durability and hand feel, thus appealing to fashion manufacturers.
Three years in the making, the process developed a new material called Sylvania, produced in the MycoWorks facility using elements of nature as well as biotech materials. The bag is an interpretation of the ‘Victoria’ bag and has been tanned and completed in France by Hermès tanners. The bag will be available for purchase later this year.
In a press release seen by Green Queen, CEO of MycoWorks Matt Scullin said that the power of storytelling is key in any new technology or art. “Hermès related to our story: that fine mycelium was rooted in artistic practice and craftsmanship. at the same time, Hermès recognized that MycoWorks’ unique biotechnology approach to enhancing a natural material meant that fine mycelium had the potential to be the highest quality mycelium in the world.”
The power of storytelling is key in any new technology or art. Hermès related to our story: that fine mycelium was rooted in artistic practice and craftsmanship. at the same time, Hermès recognized that MycoWorks’ unique biotechnology approach to enhancing a natural material meant that fine mycelium had the potential to be the highest quality mycelium in the worldMatt Scullin, CEO of MycoWorks
Back in December, Hermès was in the headlines for the wrong reasons thanks to its plans to build one of the biggest crocodile farms in Australia that will farm more than 50,000 saltwater crocodiles for their skins became public. The brand has been using crocodile skin to make luxury handbags and shoes and animal welfare groups have already criticized the proposal and warned that this plan could put Hermès out of favor amongst the growing number of sustainable consumers. The local government has already granted permission for the AU$40 million (US$29.1 million) project.
However, with this new collaboration, it seems that Hermès has taken the warnings into consideration and this new product could pave the way for the brand to switch to alternative and sustainable materials across more of its collections.
Apart from this new material, reishi is the first product developed by MycoWorks, which was created out of the company’s Fine Mycelium platform. Back in November of last year, MycoWorks had closed a US$45 million Series B funding round that will be used for scaling its Reishi animal-free leather material with the round receiving support from Taipei-based family office WTT Investment and Californian venture capital DCVC Bio as well as celebrities like Natalie Portman and John Legend.
Artistic Director of Hermès, Pierre-alexis Dumas, said that MycoWorks’ vision and values echo those of Hermès. “A strong fascination with natural raw material and its transformation, a quest for excellence, with the aim of ensuring that objects are put to their best use and that their longevity is maximized. with sylvania, Hermès is at the heart of what it has always been: innovation in the making.”
Reishi also stands out as one of the few existing solutions for leather that can perform like conventional animal leather without using any petroleum plastics, and other biotechs are also developing similar solutions like Bolt Threads’ vegan mushroom leather material dubbed Mylo, Desserto, and Fruitleather.
However, these are either based in Europe or the U.S., but with Mycotech Lab in Indonesia that is working on turning waste into sustainable animal-free leather, inspired by tempeh, the traditional Indonesian food made from fermented soybeans, now the sustainable leather industry will begin to develop in Asia as well. The company even came up with its own technology to grow its ethical and carbon-friendly mycelium-based materials.
Brands have also started to incorporate other plant-based alternatives such as grape leather made from the byproducts of wine waste and upcycled floral leather.
Lead image courtesy of MycoWorks.