Mushrooms can be magical and functional. Now, the fungus is being grown and modified as a leather substitute. Instead of cowhide, lambskin or snakeskin, the latest addition to your wardrobe may be made of mushroom leather.

It may look like leather and feel like leather but it will be leather created from the mycelium, the dense root structure of mushrooms. Mushrooms are sustainable and can be grown under various levels of temperature and humidity. When agricultural byproducts or sawdust or added, it can be grown in durable mats and tanned. It can be manipulated to simulate cowhide, ostrich, snake and other leather During the process, zippers and hardware can be directly attached to the hide without a need to sew them on later. Unlike animal leather, the mushroom leather is water resistant.

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Rolls of mycelium leather

An artist, Phil Ross, who studied at Stanford University became intrigued by the medicinal properties of Reichi mushrooms and soon discovered their value in his artwork. Ross, who founded the firm Mycoworks says,

It’s actually the skin of the mushroom. It has the plasticity that you can’t have with animal hide.

He learned that by feeding the mushrooms sawdust and other waste, he could grow them for his art, creating chairs, bricks and sculptures. He later found it could be a sustainable substitute for leather.

A simulated leather wallet, one of many items that can be created out of mycelium.

The mycelium process uses organic technology in a carbon negative process and is 100% biodegradable.

Best of all, no animals were used in the manufacturing of this vegan-friendly product. It is also artist-friendly. Art can create an industry.

Ross says,

This is part of the survival of many artists at this point. Right now, this work is more greatly valued in the business world than the art world.

Nancy Loyan Schuemann

Nancy Loyan Schuemann is a writer specializing in architecture, safes, profiles, histories and a multi-published fiction and non-fiction author and is Nailah, Middle Eastern dancer.

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