Will mushrooms become fashion’s hot new raw material?
If Ecovative has its way, it will.
The New York company, which generates materials through mycelium bio-fabrication, announced Reformation as its newest Fashion for Good cooperative member and is working with Wolverine to develop, trial and bring to market custom mycelium product that the Michigan footwear company will use in its goods.
“We’re beyond excited to join Ecovative’s cooperative to support the development of an entirely plastics-free leather alternative for scalable industry use,” said Kathleen Talbot, Reformation‘s chief sustainability officer and vice president of operations. “Since relaunching our Ref Shoes category in 2021, we’ve invested deeply in the nex-gen space to find a vegan solution that meets our high product and sustainability standards, without the plastic.”
Talbot described Reformation’s work evaluating Forager’s potential as a “critical evolution” of the Southern California company’s eco-commitment that could “drive forward a holistic sustainability agenda for fashion.”
“We’re energized to unlock a solution that can not only be used in future Reformation collections but be made available to the entire industry,” she said.
Tuesday’s announcement comes after Evocative earlier this year partnered with two British fashion brands to co-develop materials to be used in their product lines by next year.
Mycelium is the threadlike vegetative roots found in fungus. In recent years, it has been grown to create an eco-friendly material that can replace leather. Leather needs to be chemically treated to soften it, which is bad for the environment, not to mention the livestock that has to be killed to make it.
Ecovative announced a collaboration with shoemaker Vivobarefoot and clothing manufacturer Pangaia, both based in London, to research new mycelium materials that can be grown in as little as nine days and replace leather and foam for shoes and other fashionable items.
The joint research project will pair Vivobarefoot and Pangaia with Ecovative’s team of mycologists, engineers and designers to develop a line of fungus-based petroleum-free foams and hides to be used in their alternative material products.
“Mycelium is one of the most versatile and high-performing biomaterials on the planet and has the potential to replace petroleum-based foams that are so commonplace in the footwear industry,” said Galahad Clark, chief executive and founder at Vivobarefoot.
“From our founding, Vivobarefoot has been committed to using sustainably sourced, natural, bio-based and recycled materials,” he added. “We are very excited to partner with Ecovative to create the next generation of high-performing, regenerative footwear that will bring us closer to nature and our natural human potential.”
Ecovative has already developed two products for the fashion and footwear industries using its AirMycelium platform. The first product is Forager hides, Ecovative’s alternative leather material, and the second product is Forager foams, both made of pure mycelium.
Forager products are home compostable. Growing full-size hides in sheets of up to 24 yards in length and 1.8 yards wide takes only nine days. Forager foams and hides are grown from agricultural byproducts, completely free of plastics, representing a sustainable, scalable, high-performing alternative to damaging petroleum found in foam and leather commonly used in wearable goods worldwide.
“For more than a decade, our team has been working to develop bio-based alternatives that perform at the same level as conventional foams and leathers,” said Gavin McIntyre, co-founder and chief business officer of Ecovative in Green Island, N.Y.
Vivobarefoot was founded in 2004 by Galahad Clark, working with his cousin Asher Clark, both descendants of the C & J Clark shoe company that has been around for almost 200 years.
All Vivobarefoot products are made using sustainably sourced bio and recycled materials to protect the planet from pollution. All its footwear is designed to make them stronger. The brand uses wide, thin and flexible designs to allow feet to feel more natural.
With a million pairs of shoes sold, and growing at more than 30 percent per year, Vivobarefoot is expanding internationally via franchises, the company said.
Pangaia is a direct-to-consumer venture bringing break-through textile innovations to its products. Denim pants are made with regenerative wild Himalayan nettle and organic cotton. Track pants are made of 50 percent organic cotton and 50 percent recycled cotton. Activewear comprises lightweight bio-based nylon made from castor oil.
The fashion industry is known as a big polluter with petroleum-based polyester, water-heavy denim production and chemical dyes used to tint clothing. Textiles and apparel make up the second-most polluting industry after oil.
To counter pollution, some manufacturers are tapping into mycelium to create leather-like materials or to form foam from ingredients that are natural and don’t have to be transported half way around the world.
In northern California, MycoWorks was launched in 2013 to develop a replacement product for leather that would be more eco-friendly. The Bay Area startup is developing its first full-scale facility in Union County, S.C., which should be up and running by next year. It will annually produce several million square feet of the company’s patented Fine Mycelium materials.
Last year, MycoWorks announced its first partnership with luxury label Hermès to produce the Victoria bag.
Additional reporting by Jessica Binns.