Under our feet, in every forest, woodland and meadow, is an incredibly complex network of tangled threads known as mycelium. Mycelium is the root-like structure of fungi. Above ground, you might see them sprout out as mushrooms.
In recent years, mycelium fibers have been used to make all kinds of things, from packaging and construction materials, to food and clothing. The benefits of using this plant-based material over its animal and synthetic counterparts are numerous. In addition to being cruelty-free, mycelium products also have little impact on the environment. Production of these materials result in low amounts of waste and minimal energy consumption.
Taking this process to artisanal new heights, Stella McCartney has produced what it claims to be “the world’s first luxury handbag made from mycelium.” The Frayme Mylo™️ has been made in partnership with Bolt Threads, a materials company dedicated to making innovative natural fabrics and textiles.
The handbag uses mycelium as a vegan alternative to animal leather. Working with traditional Italian craftspeople, Stella McCartney has created a luxury item that wouldn’t look out of place in any high-end boutique. The mycelium leather is soft and supple with a deep black finish. The handbag is finished with a recyclable aluminum chain and medallion, complete with Stella McCartney wordmark.
The mycelium fibers are harvested as a foamy layer which imitates the microstructure of collagen, the protein in animal leather which gives it its unique texture and quality. Stella McCartney states that this “gives the final material a warmth and sponginess not possible in synthetic options.”
We’ve already seen brands like Lululemon and materials companies like Mycotex use mycelium-based materials in their products. Last year, we reported on mycelium’s benefits and some of the innovations taking place in this fascinating space.
“When it comes to replacing cow leather, there is still ‘shroom for improvement,” states Stella McCartney on its website. “It is sourced from the animal agriculture complex, which is responsible for 14.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse emissions and is driving the destruction of vital ecosystems like the Amazon rainforest, as well as our own homes. Climate change means more floods and forest fires for us, and less time on Mother Earth for us all.”
McCartney and Bolt Threads previously partnered to produce a two-piece capsule. Both that collection and this bag are produced in limited numbers. The process of making mycelium based products is still very much in development but we hope to see it working at scale soon. In the struggle to replace animal leather with plant-based alternatives, it is a very strong contender.
A limited and numbered run will be available to purchase beginning July 1.