Mylo: Mycelium-Based Vegan Leather Alternative
Californian start-up Bolt Threads has developed Mylo, a plant-based alternative to real leather. Mylo is made from mycelium – the root system of mushrooms, which grows underground in woodlands and forests.
Mycelium cells are cultivated using corn stalks and additional nutrients in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment to optimise growth. The resulting material is a strong, interlaced network of fibres which is compressed, tanned, dyed and embossed to produce leather-like characteristics.
One of the main advantages Mylo has over real leather is its reduced environmental impact. Animal rearing takes up large amounts of time and land and creates a significant carbon footprint, whereas Mylo can be grown over the course of a few weeks. And while other leather alternatives are commonly made from PVC or polyurethane, which do not biodegrade, Mylo can be composted.
Grown materials such as Mylo pave the way for a shift in how we design materials and products, as material properties, dimensions and colours can be controlled by manipulating the environment in which they are grown.
Vegan materials are becoming an increasingly important consideration for product designers. In 2017, the inaugural Vegan Home Awards recognised brands including Ikea, Habitat and Made.com for their cruelty-free furniture and homeware. And as reported in our Active Lives Macro Trend, veganism is showing strong global growth, which looks set to expand beyond food and beauty into the broader context of design. See Trans-industry Ingredients for more on mycelium and lab-grown leather alternatives.
For further inspiration, read our 2018/19 Materials Focus report Home Ground.