From Fungi to Fashion.


'Mushroom dress' created by Dutch textile designer Aniele Hoitink. Courtesy Aniela Hoitink / Neffa

At first glance Dutch textile designer Aniele Hoitink’s ‘Mushroom Dress’ looks to be made of some kind of light tissue lame or crushed sheer, but mushrooms? What’s next!?

Known as ‘muskin’, this leather like material is made from spores extracted from the upper button or ‘hat’ of the phellinus ellipsoideus mushroom through a process similar used for animal leather but without the use of tanning toxins or other chemicals, making it 100% natural. In addition to the material from the hat, the fleshy underpart, or root of the mushroom yields a fine, thread-like fabric of cells called mycelium. Found in several other variety of mushrooms, this wearable fiber has been weaved to create everything from clothing to accessories.

“I was always interested in mimicking skin and all its dynamic, changeable and living aspects, by altering or adding to the properties of textiles,” says Hoitink. The end goal was to create a textile out of living material and then develop a real garment from it.

” My inspiration came from the observation of ‘soft bodied’ species. Such organisms grow by replicating themselves over and over again, following a modular pattern. So I built a textile that does the same; a solution that provides a number of important benefits. For one, it’s easy to repair and replace the garment without interfering with the look of the fabric. Furthermore, the garment can be built three-dimensionally and shaped while being made, fitting the wearer’s wishes. Thus, it is possible to create mycelium patterns to adjust the length of the garment or to add elements – say, sleeves. This allows us to grow just the right amount of material needed, eliminating any potential waste during the making process,” shared Hoitink in an previous article for The Daily Mail.

The result, a vegetable leather that is hygienic, versatile and breathable. It also repels water, resists bacteria and harmonized with our skin in a way that makes this featured creation as sexy as it is fashionably fungi. Once the garment is not in use anymore, in sustainable fashion it can easily be composted.

“It is very difficult to change people,” says Hoitink.  “So, instead, we are changing textiles into eco-friendly disposables, which have a positive impact on the environment. By using a natural and biodegradable textile, we eliminate waste, make soil more fertile, and reduce the use of energy, water, chemicals and transport to reduce the amount of pollution the fashion industry currently causes. “I want to prove that it is possible to completely rethink the future of clothing and other items, because today, fashion is all about being innovative, sustainable, ever-­changing and always cool.”

For consumers and designers who are both fashion- and environment-conscious, the fabric rivals the softness of suede and the sturdiness of leather and muskin’s pliable texture means that it can be shaped into three-­dimensional forms, such as shoe insoles, watch straps and purses. As mycologist and ­author Paul Stamets puts it, ­“Mushroom leather is not only durable, but the process of creating it is painless and the carbon footprint is minimal compared to animal leather. Thanks to it, you do not have to kill an animal to acquire your next faux leather fashion accessory. The increasing popularity, especially among the younger generation, is because this innovation is not only good to the touch, but is also eco-­conscious, unexpected and simply brilliant.”

As is the case with any transitional trend though, mushrooms do have a handful of detractors. These critics argue that while the material’s eco-friendly and chemical-free properties cannot be denied, what is being touted as a sustainable material may eventually run out. It’s fans counter that this could not be farther from the truth, however, because the beauty of fungi lies in its ability to proliferate. “Once you have a mushroom strain in the lab, you can create cultures for hundreds of years,” Stamets notes. “We can grow mycelium in mass from a tiny piece of mushroom tissue that is one-hundredth the size of your little finger nail. It will never ‘run out’.”


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