What if you could wear real leather, but you didn’t have to take it from an animal? Or build your home from a sustainable material, stronger than cement? Now you can thanks to one plant – the humble mushroom.
The humble mushroom is an amazing plant – it’s nutritious, easy to grow and is important to our ecosystem. Muskin is a fabric made from mushroom caps or buttons, that feels and acts like suede leather. It has the same supple texture and flexibility of real leather, and breathes like a natural fabric too.
The tanning process of Muskin is also eco-friendly, using non- toxic substances to colour the leather making it comfortable and safe to wear next to the skin.
Muskin has great absorbancy, it can suck up moisture and slowly release it, making it a good fabric to use for absorbing sweat. This vegan leather therefore could be used for making comfortable leather insoles for shoes, watch bands, leather gloves and hats.
At the moment Muskin is a grown material and can only be produced in small strips roughly 40cm x 15 – 20cm. But as the technology grows so does it’s potential as a new replacement for all our favourite leather goods.
But leather isn’t the only material which could be replaced with a mushroom based alternative.
Myx is another fabric which is grown from the spores of the Oyster mushroom. Designed by Danish product designer Jonas Edvard, Myx fabric is similar in texture to felt, and can be grown around a structure to take on its shape.
In his experiments, Edvard grew the mushrooms on a fibre mat, made from waste linen and hemp fibres. Once the mushrooms were harvested, what was left over was the Myx fabric – a strong composite fabric created from the Mycelium, or mushroom spores being woven into the fibre mat. The spores would grow and pull the fibres together to give it better strength, durability and flexibility.
Myx could be used for many applications, particularly for making products such as lamp shades, hats and acoustic screens where the fabric could be grown into the desired shape instead of traditional fabric which needs to be stitched together in sheets.
MycoTEX is another Mycelium based fabric, grown in petri dishes. Dutch Designer Aniela Hoitink is the creator of MycoTEX, which has been developed as a dress and garment fabric. Once the Mycelium is fully grown, it is “marinated” in another liquid, and then the circles of fabric are molded onto a mannequin into the shape of a dress. As the dress dries, the Mycelium sticks to itself and the dress is completed.
Hoitink came up with the idea as she considered how quickly fashions change, and how many of our outfits end up as waste. The result is a fabric which comes from a renewable source, and is both compostable and biodegradable. Hoitink hopes that one day Fungi based textiles may even be utilized in the healthcare industry. Some types of Fungi have anti-bacterial properties, including resistance to Salmonella and Golden Staph, which may even replace the traditional process of impregnating fibres with silver to give it the same property.
Growing your own furniture
Sustainable Furniture is another frontier where mushrooms can be used. Not only could products like Muskin be used to replace leathers, some designers are working on ways for you to grow your own furniture.
Ecovative is a company that sells DIY starter kits to interior designers, allowing them to grow their own furniture for projects. These kits have already been used to create furniture such as lampshades for commercial projects.
Non – recyclable packaging is a huge problem, with tonnes of waste plastic floating around in our oceans. Ecovative have used similar technology to create compostable packaging from mushrooms. This biodegradable packaging is currently used by Microsoft for some of it’s products, and will compost in 30 days. The company have now won a Cradle to Cradle award for their products, which is awarded to those whose products have a sustainable lifecycle from start to finish.
Building Sustainable Homes
Mushrooms are also being developed for use as building materials. Companies such as Mycoworks are making bricks out of Mycelium and testing their properties against traditional building materials such as clay and cement. Some of the results are amazing. There is a great video on their site showing how these Mycelium bricks can even surpass cement bricks in their toughness and resistance to natural elements such as fire.
Similar to the Myx fabric, these building materials can be made with a substrate from agriculture waste materials such as sawdust. The Mycelium from the mushrooms acts as a glue to hold it together, so the majority of the material is sustainably sourced.