Science Will Grow Your Next 'Leather' Purse Out Of Mushrooms And Zippers


I have a confession to make: Meat makes me feel kind of queasy. As a longtime vegetarian, it's been years since a single bit of rare steak passed my lips.

But, while trading in chicken for tofu never caused me any distress, the issue I continue to struggle with is where to draw the line. Do I stop buying eggs? Do I quit my soft leather purse, cold turkey?


A brand called MycoWorks believes it's solved that last question, at least. The brand combines the knowledge of researchers with the know-how of designers, creating a biodegradable, carbon-negative leather substitute that will make even the most granola-happy vegan pleased: A faux leather made from mushrooms.

Well, kind of. The leather-like material is actually grown from mycelium, the structure that makes up the exterior of fungi like mushrooms. Shittake leather, I'd call it (that's definitely not the precise term, it's just catchy). Have you ever accidentally bitten into the stem of a shittake mushroom? You might as well be gnawing on the arm of your parents' leather couch.

By growing mycelia in a lab, the team hopes to create a far more sustainable version of leather for furniture, purses and coats — one that won't slowly destroy our environment.


According to Popular Science, one incredibly sci-fi aspect of the process is that scientists can actually grow mycelia around other things. They'll add zippers, for example, while the filaments are still growing. Unlike the labor intensive process of raising a cow, butchering it, tanning the hide and painstakingly crafting a Coach bag, MycoWorks' solution is relatively simple (not to mention painless, for everybody involved).

Once the mycelium is ready, the team can stamp it with patterns to give it unique texture that mimics the skin of animals like crocodiles and snakes. Nobody wants to feel like they're just carrying an oversize mushroom around town.


Ready to buy? While 'shroom leather isn't on the market yet, Popular Science reports the brand was seeking investors as recently as July. MycoWorks sees mycelium as the future, from the bricks we use to build houses, to the coats we wear.