When it comes to the future of footwear, innovation not only applies to new, out-of-the-box models, but it also comes from the modernization of classics. adidas is doing just that with the announcement of its new concept shoe, the “mushroom” leather Stan Smith Mylo™. The iconic sneaker is crafted with a mushroom-based material called Mylo, and is the first-ever shoe to use it. It’s a major achievement for the brand in its ambition to fully create products with natural materials and ultimately end the use of plastic throughout production.
The challenge in using natural materials, especially for a global brand like the Three Stripes, is supply. We’ve seen footwear labels drop limited quantity capsule collections and collaborations with eco-friendly innovations in the past. It’s a great nod to what’s possible and a reassuring precursor to what brands can potentially do. But in reality, when you want to fully implement the use of these natural materials in your core lineup, scale is key, and ensuring adequate supply is top priority. Even more so, comfort, durability and performance should not be compromised when considering these materials as alternative (and hopefully soon-to-be normal) options to “traditional” fabrics that are animal-based or synthetic.
Under the adidas Future Lab, the company’s R&D arm, and in partnership with Bolt Threads, a biotechnology company committed to creating the next generation of advanced materials, the sportswear brand has been able to research and develop ways to turn mycelium — the interlaced webbing, root-like structure of mushrooms — into a possibly viable, scalable material for footwear.
In order to achieve this, mycelium is grown within a lab by recreating its natural conditions, and then mixed with sawdust and other organic materials to build a network of “roots” that resemble soft foam. The mycelium mix is harvested once there is enough growth (this can take billions of cells) to form an interconnected lattice — imagine three-dimensional cross strips arranged in pattern with open spaces repeating throughout. The latticework is processed to become soft, supple, and leather-like, resulting in Mylo.
The growth and development process is highly efficient, taking only two weeks to grow, and the controlled environment of the lab helps increase the yield per square foot. Mylo sheets were used by adidas designers to craft and stitch this Stan Smith‘s upper. It is a versatile material that can take on any color, finish, or emboss treatment.
“The introduction of Mylo as a new material is a major step forward in our bold ambition to help END PLASTIC WASTE,” said Amy Jones Vaterlaus, Global Head of Future at adidas, in the Stan Smith Mylo™ press release. “As a planet, we must learn to work with nature rather than against it and put all our efforts into finding innovative solutions that are created responsibly with resources that renew at a sustainable pace.”
Using the Stan Smith to showcase this innovative material is, as adidas puts it, an “homage to the brand’s heritage of creating sports shoes, with a new pledge of responsibility.” However, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the brand recreate the icon with inventive, eco-conscious materials. It’s been the go-to silhouette for other Earth-friendly projects, including March’s Stan Smith Primegreen, which is constructed with recycled materials.
Mylo is another game-changing effort, but it too is one that has been making splashes of notoriety over the years. Just recently, Stella McCartney deputed the first apparel offering of the mushroom leather alternative in a two-piece capsule collection. The award-winning English designer has been a longtime partner with Mylo developer Bolt Threads, creating a prototype of her iconic Falabella bag in 2018 and helping form a consortium with adidas, Kering, and Lululemon to bring more funding into the biotech company.
Although these new advancements in Mylo are still just concepts, unavailbale for purchase, we will certainly keep you all updated on any news regarding potential releases and improvements in scale. For more information on Mylo, it’s development, and different applications, visit www.mylo-unleather.com.
In other footwear news, read out latest op-ed, It’s Time for Sneaker Brands To Embrace the Preorder Model.