Mushrooms – the new super-material?

Last summer a micro-trend that trickled into the mainstream was mushrooms. Following the emergence of ‘cottage core’ along with the more recent goblin-esque, fairytale chic style, the motif of mushrooms has stayed present – and evolved.

Moving beyond the realm of the toadstool aesthetic, mycology (the study of mushrooms) has gained popularity with more people learning how to grow and gather them (motives obviously vary in this practice). This is where Mycelium comes into play. Mycelium is essentially what most fungi and mushrooms are composed of. It is very easily grown given the right conditions and has many useful qualities: some that make it worthy of being processed into material. Mycelium as a biomaterial is not a new concept however, it has actually been used for years outside of the mainstream view in products such as plastic packaging alternatives, catalysts for turning biomass into compost amongst other agricultural products. Mylo, a mycelium leather produced in 2013 by the company MycoWorks has even been incorporated into designs by Stella McCartney. Recently, it has regained its relevance.

As design students, those with an interest in sustainability and budding botanists look into biomaterials, Mycelium has been found to be of great interest. In certain quiet corners of TikTok you can find people making fungal corsets, bacterial leather, mycelium mirror frames – the possibilities seem to be endless. The question to be asked is just how far will the research into fungal based biomaterials go. As UAL enters its third year in teaching the Biodesign MA, what innovations will come out of it, will we see more mushroom-based fashion enter the market? Or is this just another dead end in the quest for sustainable fashion.

Rosa Macvicar