Usually, leather is made from the skin of animals like cattle, lambs, goats, and even aquatic creatures like seals and alligators among others. It has also been made from synthetic fabric which requires plastic. Leather made from these creatures or manufactured synthetically has ethical and environmental concerns. However, thanks to advancements in technology, an environmentally and ethically-friendly leather made from fungi are making news now. According to a Mail Online report, the new material created by San Francisco-based biomaterials company MycoWorks is more ethical and has a lower environmental impact than leather made from animals. The vegan leather developed by the scientists not only serves as an alternative, but this material made from fungi also looks and feels just like animal leather. The company is also working closely with traditional leather craft folks to give it an indistinguishable feel like calfskin or sheepskin, potentially saving the four-legged creatures and the planet.
Over the last decade, several companies in the United States, Indonesia and South Korea have hyped fungal leather as an ethical and environmentally sustainable replacement for both cattle skin and plastic.
The material is made of mycelium, the vegetative part of a fungus consisting of a mass of branching. Additionally, these sheets of woven fungus can also be grown over a couple of weeks on any organic material like sawdust to agricultural waste as well. Furthermore, this fungal leather made from mycelium is potentially more biodegradable and sustainable, thus putting a stop to the damaging environmental effects of fast fashion.
Although, the fungal leather industry is still in a nascent stage, and is largely producing concepts for the luxury market. Mycelium-based materials recently made its high fashion debut as an exclusive Hermss handbag, the Guardian reported.
“It can give the same emotional response as an animal leather,” Dr Matt Scullin, CEO of MycoWorks, told the publication.
The scalability of the new found material is endless from fast to high street fashion to car upholstery. But bio-scientists caution that thoughtless design could end up hurting the climate in the long run. Along with the material, they suggest the hardware trims, adhesives and fastenings should also be biodegradable, else they defeat the whole purpose.