Following a successful study praising mushroom-made leather’s sustainability, a biotech materials startup from the Netherlands is now ready to produce the eco-material at a commercial scale, offering a vegan alternative to animal leather that looks, feels, even smells like cow leather.
“Growing a cow takes one to two years,” says Jamie Bainbridge, vice president of product development at Bolt Threads, the biotech materials startup that makes Mylo, the material made of mycelium, the root-like part of mushrooms. “It takes growing the feed before you grow the cow. And so you’ve got a huge impact embedded in that cow. Mylo takes less than two weeks to grow.”
Fungi grow on sawdust, and the mycelium forms a fluffy white growth. Once harvested, it goes through a series of proprietary steps, then goes to a tannery that carefully considers sustainability and avoids toxic chemicals such as chromium. Bolt Threads can produce as much as a million square feet a year of its material, and even if it’s still a tiny portion of all the leather produced every year – a grand total of 35 billion square feet – it could potentially replace all the leather on the planet. That is if all the mushroom farms that already exist converted to making the mycelium needed for the eco-leather. Companies like Adidas, Lululemon, and Stella McCartney are part of the development of Mylo, giving Bolt Threads feedback on samples they submit to them.