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Fruiting Bodies, Mycelium & Fashion


In this article we invite you to join us in the magical world of nature, and all the different applications of wonderful mushrooms, flowers, and fruits. There are a lot of natural solutions out there that you are all familiar with, such as using cotton, linen, or renewable energy, but a wave of research is focusing on new applications of elements that have been around us for an extremely long time.

Mycelium, the vegetative part of a fungus, has recently gained attention in the sustainable fashion industry for its properties. It can be grown into a variety of shapes and textures, making it a versatile material for clothing and accessories. Mycelium-based leather, for example, has been developed as a cruelty-free alternative to traditional animal leather. It is created by growing mycelium on a substrate of agricultural waste, resulting in a material that is biodegradable and compostable. Mycelium can also be used to create sustainable packaging, replacing traditional plastics that contribute to environmental pollution.

Looking to nature for answers has never been as important as we continue to seek innovative solutions to an ever-evolving climate crisis that places pressure on our planet. By prioritizing nature-based solutions, we learn from the abundant wisdom of the natural world and how we can apply its processes to design.


Fungi presents an alluring new possibility for materials in fashion and to reframe how we think about the production, composition, and the disposal of fashion.


One of the fundamental lessons Fungi passes along is interconnectedness. Fungi are connected by an intricate lattice-like web of interactions and communication that exist amongst mycelium. These thread-like roots connect forests and transport vital nutrients and information to neighbouring trees and other vegetation.

A book that has inspired us is The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, who you might be familiar with because of his TED talk. He opens the door to the magical world of forests and the social network of trees, which are all connected thanks to the action of mycelium working in their roots. This allows them to share nutrients, for example when a tree is young or has had its leaves cut off.

Suzan Simard, a professor of forest ecology speaks further to how this function of mycelium is important for the health of the whole forest. If one Douglas fir has been injured by insects, it can use the mycelium network to send warning signals to neighboring trees nearby as well as nutrients for trees who need support.

In the world of Fungi, collaboration is fundamental, everything working as a network to support each other and create balance. Can we learn to apply the same logic to fashion supply chains? Perhaps we should approach our supply chains not as sequential linking chains but as an interconnected web where each stage connects to each other at different points.

Decomposition & Renewability

Another movie that taught us a lot about mushrooms through a visually wonderful experience is Fantastic Fungi. We learnt that mycelium has the power to turn dead life into something new and magical.

Fungi are natural decomposers paving the way for eliminating waste, a model the fashion industry would benefit from adopting. Fashion does not design with decomposition in mind. Rather, textile waste has become a tool of oppression in the form of waste colonialism, where land such as in Ghana, Africa are dominated by the disposal of second-hand clothing.

Luckily, there are organizations working with decomposition and fungi to solve fashion’s disposable culture. The BioMimicry Institute is working alongside organizations such as The OR Foundation on a decomposition project that sets out to prove that decomposition of second-hand clothing waste, which has been done on the local level, is a viable solution on the global scale.

"Nature has primary producers, consumers, and decomposers, and all rely on dispersal, entropy. Without all three there is no cadence to life," said Beth Rattner, Executive Director for the Biomimicry Institute. "If the fashion sector is going to be a force for good on the planet, it has to follow the same laws of nature.


So how can we apply the wisdom of mycelial networks to complex and largely fragmented fashion supply chains?

The fashion industry needs more collaboration within supply chains and with stakeholders to promote circularity and renewability within design processes. The pandemic revealed the disconnected nature of our supply chains as we saw closures, delays, and labor issues amongst others. Although there has been investment into supply chains, companies miss key communication and understanding with their vendors.

According to a 2018 study by McKisney, materials production was the largest contributor to fashion industry supply chain emissions. Apart from energy and transport, if brands want to have a positive impact on the industry’s overall impact, switching to renewable materials which could help improve the sustainability of their company.

Fibers weren’t always a destructive force for our planet. There are an abundance of natural fibers such as wool, linen, hemp, and cotton that have been used for centuries prior to the synthetics, first invented in 1935, but widely used from the 1970s. Using renewable, natural fiber-based materials such as mushroom leather eliminates the harmful synthetics and blended fabrics that are difficult to biodegrade.

Innovation requires collaborative thinking to generate solutions, and mushroom-based leather presents a model for the potential of what innovation can look like among natural materials.

Fruiting Dyes

Renewable materials are becoming popular again and research is being undertaken into the secrets that nature still holds from us. Interesting options can be found for dyes, where traditional pigments such as natural indigo have been replaced with chemical alternatives. Fashion for Good recently launched a digital tool - their dye stuff library - to facilitate the choice of sustainable dyestuff based on competitive performance and environmental metrics for commercial use.

Thanks to Fashion for Good’s newsletter, we also found this beautifully shot and inspiring video telling the story of Somenotsukasa Yoshioka dye workshop in Fushimi, Japan. This family business was passed onto Sachio Yoshioka after five generations. He explains that knowledge of how vegetable colours were made and used has largely disappeared, and that he has carried out extensive historical research to bring back those forgotten colours, made from bark, berries, flowers, leaves and roots.

Beyond things that are grown for the purpose of making colours, there is so much that can be done with waste! Onion and avocado skins, chamomile and birch bark, and nettles and acorns can produce lots of colours and effects. The Wild Dyer is a complete guide for both beginners and experienced artists seeking to expand their knowledge of this increasingly popular craft.

Another example we love is the garden for Fashion Revolution that Lottie Delamain designed at Chelsea gardens in London. All flowers and plants in it can be used for fibers or dyes for Fashion, and grown in a regenerative way, without harming the planet. The garden inspires visitors to rethink the link between what we can grow and what we wear. By seeing the sources directly, this inspires creativity, but also reminds us to think of where our clothes come from, and the precious values of such solutions.

Fabric and Sustainability Benefits

Growing mycelium into a fabric involves creating a composite on materials like corn stalks or sawdust where it can grow to produce a foam-like sheet that can be tanned and treated like leather.This process emits fewer greenhouse gasses and uses far less water and land resources than raising livestock to produce animal leather. For instance, footwear made with MYLEA reduced harvest time from 2 years to 60 days, saves 21.2 kg of CO2 and utilizes 99 percent less water compared to animal leather.

Mycelium plays an integral role in combating climate change as they sequester carbon. In fact, mycorrhizal networks are known to sequester up to 70 percent of plants’ carbon, and holding it there indefinitely. Once the carbon is in the soil it nourishes microbial communities and helps draw down CO2, creating a carbon sink.

Mushrooms can then break down complex carbs, pollutants, and heavy metals through a process known as mycoremediation. While this process requires further research, there are companies like Mycocycle investing in research to leverage the ability for mushrooms to eliminate pollutants naturally.

Examples / Innovative Designs

In addition to its sustainability benefits, mycelium can also be used to create unique and innovative designs. The growth process of mycelium is unpredictable, resulting in patterns and textures that cannot be replicated by traditional manufacturing methods. This allows for the creation of one-of-a-kind pieces that are not only environmentally friendly, but also visually striking. We have a great example here of a mushroom hat.

Mycelium offers us a way to reshape how we think about the permanence and disposal of clothing - what if they only lasted a couple of years and could be composted into energy or soil nutrients.

An idea that we love is the application of seaweed, which is a natural material that grows easily without the need for freshwater, so it has a huge sustainability potential. It’s one of the fastest-growing, regenerative organisms on earth, that is both eco-friendly and naturally biodegradable. An example of application is Tanguy Mélinand, a French fashion designer, who has harvested seaweed from the ocean and then applied a unique preservation process before designing intricate garments with the material. The result is fantastic, and you can find more on Seaweedworks, a network of designers using seaweed!



While mushroom leather alternatives present an exciting opportunity for designers and the material future of fashion, they’re not yet commercially ready. The difficulty lies in the production capacity for these types of materials and availability to the market, which is still very minimal compared to the scale of leather globally.

For instance, Annalisa Merelli, host of the Quartz Podcast set out on a mission to try on a mushroom leather piece in New York shops including Stella McCartney but was unable to experience the material in person, “all mycelium products were sold out before most of the salespeople even got to see them in person”.

There are companies creating usable mushroom leather such as Mylo, which is commonly seen in high-end brands and runways. While the marketing and press around mycelium leather generate hype, these products remain inaccessible at retail locations to the average customer.

One key obstacle is ensuring the correct additives are added to transform the sheet of mushroom leather into useful material at scale. Since the material is not widely commercially available, reports of sensitivities in production methods that affect the thickness, tensile, tearing, poor handle properties with brittle structure and uniform thickness, have been noted.


In comparison to animal based leather, the price of mushroom-based leather is significantly cheaper to produce after factoring into the cost of raising animals and treating leather. As an obvious benefit, it is also cruelty free, and better for the environment than faux-leather alternatives made from plastic which are not biodegradable.

Sadly, when it comes down to it, oil-based synthetic materials such as polyester are the dominant material. We need a shift within the industry’s attitude towards prioritizing a lower environmental impact within the materials we use.


So with all these amazing solutions, why is 65% of the clothing that we wear still polymer-based? According to the Changing Markets foundation and their range of amazing reports on this issue, the insatiable fast fashion business model is enabled by cheap synthetic fibers, which are produced from fossil fuels, mostly oil and gas.

Polyester production is projected to skyrocket in the future, and what we often don’t get told is that there is a huge lobbying machine from Big Oil companies that is very interested in things not to change, as the current model is very profitable and comfortable for them.

As we’ve explored, there are an abundance of natural fibers and new innovative materials paving the way for the future of fashion. While some like mycelium leather are not yet commercially available, they symbolize a positive shift in the industry back to natural fibers and new bio-based materials.

We envision a world where fashion works as an interconnected and reciprocal system in tune with nature’s systems; where clothing is made from regenerative materials that put nourishment back into our soil. Taking notes and applying lessons from the wisdom of mycelium and processes like decomposition to fashion can help create a more integrated supply chain, helping us regenerate the world through fashion.

Until next time friends, Always Be Curious & Stay Diligent x


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