Love the feel and longevity of leather but wishing for something a little more sustainable? You’re not alone. The leather industry poses many threats to both the environment and human health — not to mention its extremely negative impact on animals. Pollutants generated by the tanning process can escape even the most modernized of facilities and make their way into water sources, which makes even working in a tannery a dangerous job. To make matters worse, faux “vegan” leather made from synthetic materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) can be just as harmful to the planet throughout its production process. It also doesn’t biodegrade or last as long as the real thing, so in the end, it’s just more useless plastic pollution.
Thanks to the latest in green technology, there’s now a new option making its way onto the market that eliminates many of these concerns. It’s remarkably easy and eco-friendly to produce, looks and feels almost exactly like animal leather, and avoids producing a lot of the waste normally associated with the leather industry. It’s called “Mylo” and it’s made entirely from mushrooms.
The process of producing this intriguing new material begins with mycelium cells: the vegetative part of fungus most typically found growing underground like roots. Fungal mycelium consists of branching, thread-like strands that absorb nutrients and can self-assemble into dense mats.
Developed by a company called Bolt Threads, Mylo takes just days to produce by growing mycelium in beds of corn stalks, where they form an interconnected three-dimensional network. Once they’re ready, Bolt Threads compresses these mats to make a 2D material, after which they tan and dye it to produce the final product. According to the company, Mylo is strong and abrasion-resistant with a warm, supple feel and a ton of leather-like qualities.
They add: “Our friends at Ecovative pioneered this mycelium fabrication technology, which literally grew out of the great work they’ve been doing in creating soft flexible foams. We were blown away and thrilled when they agreed to allow us to help develop it into a commercially viable new material. We’ve established a long-term partnership with Ecovative to optimize this technology and put processes in place to produce commercial-ready Mylo™ material and bring products to market that consumers will love.”
Last fall, Bolt Threads launched the Mylo special edition of the Chester Wallace Driving Bag: a multi-pocketed tote that fused the innovative leather alternative with high-quality design. The world’s first commercially available Mylo product, the tote started at $400 and was only available in limited quantities. While its Kickstarter campaign has long since closed, it’s possible that the bag will become available for purchase again. In any case, it’s just one of many Mylo offerings in the making.
The company website reads: “Designed in collaboration with Portland-based brand Chester Wallace, the Bolt Projects Mylo™ Driver Bag is a unisex tote, crafted with practical functionality top of mind. A recreation of Chester Wallace’s classic Driver silhouette, every bag is hand-cut and sewn in Portland, OR and constructed entirely from Bolt Threads’ Mylo™ material, paired with a canvas base. The bag features a durable carry-all silhouette with two internal and three external organization pockets.”
If you’d like to stay in the loop about future Mylo products, you can always sign up for newsletter updates at the Bolt Threads website. In the meantime, check out other cool innovations like fungi bricks, mushroom-based home insulation, and an entire pavilion made of mycelium.