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Mushroom Leather: What It Is and Its Uses

Leather is a luxurious, natural material used to make everything from shoes to stylish handbags. But vegans and vegetarians are finding a new alternative called mushroom leather, grown from fungi's mycelium, to be a much more sustainable option.

If you're looking to try something new to add to your wardrobe, consider giving this unique carbon-neutral, eco-friendly leather a try.

Read on to discover more about these new leather options and how mushroom leather is starting to take the fashion world by storm.

What is Mushroom Leather?

There are many different types of leather, but until now, all of them came from animal sources. Mushroom leather is a vegan-friendly type of leather that can be used in the same way animal leather can (i.e. to make shoes, bags, and clothing).

This plant-based leather is made from the vegetative part of fungi called mycelium. Mushrooms are part of the fungi kingdom, but they have their own unique properties that make them prime for making leather-like material.

People consume mushrooms as food and as nutritional supplements to help with things like boosting the immune system and increasing focus. Now, a variety of different mushroom species are also becoming a leading choice to create new materials for use in the fashion industry.

One San Francisco startup called MycoWorks is using reishi mushrooms to create this new material. It brings artistic design, art, and new manufacturing methods together for a fresh, new take on materials for the fashion industry. The reishi mushroom species have been used to promote a healthy lifestyle for years, and now it's becoming a usable material, too.

How is Mushroom Leather Made?

The mycelium, or the vegetative part of fungi, is the part used to make mushroom leather. First, growers must select and moisten the proper substrate to provide food that allows the mushrooms to thrive.

Materials like corn, straw, wood chips, and compost allow the mushrooms to attach to them so they can grow. Once the substrate is wet, it's placed into a bag and pasteurized.

As the mushroom grows, the environment is prime to protect it against bacteria to promote faster, healthier growth of the mycelium. As the mycelium grows with plant fibers, it transforms into a flexible, soft textile similar to animal leather. The mycelium forms a sort of glue between the fibers to keep everything consistent and together.

In most cases, the process takes about two to three weeks for the leather growth to complete. Then, a mixture of water, starch, minerals, and hydrogen peroxide is poured into a mold and injected with living mushroom cells, and placed in a dark environment so the cells can grow.

The mushroom cells digest the starch and form thousands of cellular strands that can grow to be one inch thick. The form is dried to prevent mold and it's now able to be used as leather.

Uses and Applications

Growing and selling mushrooms is a popular business, so it's important to make sure that they're sealed correctly to prevent bacteria and dryness. If the mushroom leather remains moist, it's more pliable and can be used for a variety of applications.

One of the most popular mushroom leather uses is to make unique clutches, wallets, and handbags. During the processing stage, designers can add color to the leather to create a variety of different hues and looks.

Mushroom leather handbag

Vegan Mushroom Leather Handbag | © Bolt Threads

Mushroom leather is also currently being used to make sneakers and other types of shoes. Most designers combine pieces of mushroom leather with sustainable fabrics for a multi-textured look. The material is quite breathable, making it an excellent choice for athletic shoes.

Mushroom Leather Sneakers
Vegan Mushroom Leather Shoes | © Adidas

Because mushroom leather is very soft and pliable, it feels nice and gentle against the skin. It's also very popular for use in making belts, wallets, and other accessories as well as leather clothes like jackets and tops.

This soft, hypoallergenic material is also being used to make things like watch straps. This is a wonderful breakthrough for people with skin allergies and other issues like eczema.


Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about mushroom leather.

What does mushroom leather feel like?

Mushroom leather feels like most other types of leather, but it's a bit softer and much more lightweight. The way the material feels depends on the species used and how it's processed when it's made.

Does mushroom leather last?

This material is surprisingly flexible and durable, just like real leather. It's also breathable and waterproof, which means your new mushroom leather clothes should last just as long as clothing made from animal leather.

How good is mushroom leather?

Not only is mushroom leather durable and soft, but it's also eco-friendly and cruelty-free. This newly popular material is also completely biodegradable, making it even more environmentally friendly than almost any other material used to make clothing, bags, and shoes.

Is mushroom leather washable?

All products made of mushroom leather should be hand washed only if you need to remove marks and stains. To wash your mushroom leather, use cold water and a damp sponge or soft rag. Gently rub the stain with the water and allow the piece to dry.

Try This New Leather Style Today

While you have plenty of leather options to choose from, consider giving mushroom leather a try. This environmentally friendly, sustainable, and carbon-neutral material provides you with a soft, supple feel and a stylish look.

If you're starting an e-commerce business selling mushroom leather products, be sure to check out our guide to e-commerce packing supplies today!


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