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Bolt Threads’ Mylo Mushroom ‘Leather’ is Now Vegan Verified

Good news for the cruelty-free crowd: A popular mushroom-root-derived leather alternative is now verifiably vegan.

Bolt Threads revealed Wednesday that its Mylo material has sailed through Eurofins Chem-MAP’s Vegan Verification program, becoming one of the first novel materials to receive the Luxembourg lab network’s animal-free seal of approval.

The process of verification is scientifically robust, Eurofins Chem-MAP said. Its next-generation sequencing DNA analysis can ferret out any fish, mammal, bird, insect, crustacean or mollusk traces in one fell swoop. Combined with an extensive document review and risk assessment of the manufacturing process, the Eurofins Chem-MAP is among the most thorough vegan verification schemes on the market today, it added.

“The Chem-MAP team [is] proud to award the Vegan Verification mark to Mylo in recognition of this vegan material innovation,” Georgina Mawer, head of Eurofins Chem-MAP’s Vegan Verification program, said in a statement. “Bolt Threads’ world-class scientists and engineers are demonstrating that it is possible to develop high-quality, vegan materials made using green chemistry and no animal DNA.”

Mylo, derived from a “highly efficient” growing technique that coaxes the branching mushroom root network into an organized mat of enmeshed cells, is one of fashion’s favorite fakes. Last October, Bolt Threads teamed with luxury conglomerate Kering and brands Adidas, Lululemon and Stella McCartney to form the so-called Mylo consortium. Its goal: to scale up the material and bring it to market within the next year.

Stella McCartney was the first out of the gate, presenting in March a concept black bustier top and pair of “utilitarian” trousers, which the British label handmade by draping panels of Mylo over recycled nylon scuba. One month later, Adidas feted a Mylo-clad prototype of its iconic Stan Smith sneaker. Lululemon followed up in July with what it hailed as the world’s first yoga accessories made with Mylo, including two bags that will be available for sale early next year.

“A planet with 10 billion people cannot live in the same way that a planet with 1 billion people did, and in our resource-constrained world, now is the time for meaningful innovation to develop low impact alternatives to the materials people know and love,” said Libby Sommer, director of sustainability at Bolt Threads. “We are proud to receive this thorough vegan certification from such an acclaimed source and view it as a testament to our rigorous production process which was designed with both people and planetary health in mind.”

Mylo isn’t completely natural, nor is it biodegradable. According to Bolt Threads, it’s currently certified as 60 percent to 85 percent bio-based under the German DIN-Geprüft standard because it employs “some amount” of petrochemicals in the finishing process for performance reasons. The use of fossil fuels in plant-based leather has been contentious. Several of Mylo’s rival materials have been accused of being mostly plastic, with only a small amount of organic matter to lay claim to the “plant” descriptor.

“We believe 100 percent bio-based is the right goal, [but] we also know that a material’s potential for impact depends on brand and consumer adoption, and a majority of consumers will not accept big sacrifices in quality compared to leather,” Sue Levin, chief marketing officer at Bolt Threads, previously told Sourcing Journal. “We have not seen a 100 percent bio-based product yet that meets brand and consumers requirements for softness, strength and suppleness, but we will keep working toward that goal.”

The industry’s embrace of plant-based leather in general, and Mylo in particular, is reflective of a growing consumer appetite for products that pollute less and protect animals more.

A survey from the Vegan Society, published in August, found that 95 percent of Britons want to see “more vegan-verified clothes, bags, shoes and accessories on the high-street and online.” Of those polled, 61 percent said they believe the use of fur is cruel, while 57 percent said the same of leather from “exotic” animals such as alligators and pythons. More than one-third (37 percent) deemed the use of cow leather as cruel, with over half (54 percent) criticizing the use of calf leather.

When it came to more novel versions of pleather, 55 percent of respondents said they were keen to purchase or already owned something made from plant-based leather. Nearly half (42 percent) said they believed plant-based leather was more sustainable, while 34 percent said it seemed more ethical. A large portion—74 percent—of Britons said they would pay more for plant-based leather compared with their animal-derived counterparts.

As of July, the Vegan Society’s vegan-certification scheme, the Vegan Trademark, had registered roughly 4,500 fashion products, or nearly double the number registered at the start of 2021. This included accessories, bags, footwear, clothing and sportswear from high-street and luxury brands such as George at Asda, Forever New, New Look and OffDutyLDN.

In another recent survey of Chinese consumers by the Material Innovation Institute (MII)  and North Mountain Consulting, 90 percent of those polled said they preferred “next-gen alternatives” to the real McCoy. Common reasons included a desire to protect the environment (72 percent) and inflict less harm on animals (63 percent). Respondents also cited the higher performance-cost ratio of such materials (72 percent) and a desire to appear more fashionable (61 percent).

Nicole Rawling, co-founder and CEO of MII, called this a “momentous shift” in attitudes and an important one considering the size of China’s consumer market.

“Consumers want to buy products that are in alignment with their values, and they are becoming increasingly aware that animal leather is not,” she said after the results were published. “Creating next-gen leather alternatives that outperform leather both functionally and ethically could lead to a total transformation of the leather market away from animal options.”

Analysts at Grand View Research estimated that the global vegan woman’s fashion market was valued at $396.9 billion in 2019, with footwear accounting for more than 40 percent of that pie. By 2027, revenue for the sector is predicted to reach $1.1 trillion.

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