Although last year saw the release of a Sean Wotherspoon x adidas Gazelle “Indoor” crafted from mushroom leather, it’s important to remember that shoe was limited to 200 pairs. It was, for all its innovation and for all the justifiable fanfare, effectively a prototype sneaker. Or at most something like a test run.
That’s not to take anything away from the collaborative release – we gave it the number one spot in our Best of 2023 list, after all – but it does make starkly clear where the material technology is at right now.
It’s interesting, then, to see mushroom leather make such a low-key mass-market debut – appearing on two pairs of sneakers in a collaboration between Paris-based brand Perks & Mini and sportswear giant PUMA.
While both sneakers in the capsule – the Clyde PAM and the Velophasis V002 PAM – share a construction of bio-based HyphaLite, mesh and Mushroom Leather, the Clyde also uses “hairy suede.” It’s a bizarre choice, considering not only that it takes cruelty-free credentials away from the collaboration, but also that PUMA itself just invested heavily in something called RE:SUEDE, which at least adds an Earth-friendlier bent to the animal-derived element.
Still, back to the Velophasis – the star of the show here. Part of the two brands’ ongoing BIO/VERSE project – a combination of functional, utilitarian design elements and more progressive, often natural materials – the heavily co-branded shoe comprises a mesh upper with HyphaLite overlays, debossed and embossed HyphaLite Formstrip, mesh lining, and a gum outsole.
All of which is interesting in and of itself, but it does leave questions about where, exactly, the mushroom leather is being used. Is it a vital part of the structure, or being used for purely creative (but totally inert) reasons? Making only a small leap, we can presume that P.A.M. is referring to the HyphaLite element – its manufacturer ISA TanTec says that the product is “plant based and also includes mushrooms” – which would mean the material is present across most of the shoe. As top-line descriptions go, however, it’s a little murky.
In that vein, it’s also worth mentioning that there’s some serious discord between the P.A.M. description and what PUMA is saying, with the German corporation not only citing 22.98% cow leather in the upper (which Perks & Mini does not list), but also forgoing any mention of mushroom leather on the sneaker’s product page at all.
But the fact we’re even being promoted to ask these questions feels positive; that there’s a conversation to be had about how one of the biggest sportswear brands on the planet is using a next-generation material is surely a good thing.
And the rest of the collection has its moments too: recycled rubber, recycled cotton and recycled polyester appear across the garments and accessories, though the two-piece tracksuit‘s 100% virgin nylon construction is a comparative disappointment, functioning as the capsule’s stand-out offering.
The bottle bag set – complete with reusable metal bottle – is a nice nod to the collection’s dual identity; rounding out the release with a small gesture pointing both to function and to forward thinking. (Shame about the hairy suede, though.)
Check out the full collection now via the P.A.M. website – priced starting from around $50 USD for headwear and the bottle set, and up to around $150 USD for the track jacket, with the Velophasis coming in at $130 USD.