As fashion continues on its vegan journey, leather shoes made from mushrooms are next on the menu

Shoes of the future? (Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)
Shoes of the future? (Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)
  • A start-up in Indonesia, Mycotech, is manufacturing a leather-like material from mushrooms and using it to make shoes. 
  • The leather-look uppers of these shoes are not from animal hides, but rather mycelium – a component of fungi.
  • Such plant-based materials could help fashion go greener.

Mycelium has properties similar to real leather, but toxic chemicals are not needed to produce it. Small companies around the world have begun to use this vegan leather, as the material is breathable, flexible, robust, and lasts a few years. 

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Mycotech co-founder Adi Reza Nugroho, says; “the process consumes less water, we don’t have to kill animals, and it has less carbon emissions.” 

To create the shoes, mushroom spores are mixed with sawdust to generate the leather-like fabric. After just a few days, the tightly-woven mycelium membrane forms on the outside of the blocks. It can then be harvested and turned. This requires just a fraction of the water needed in traditional leather production (less than one tenth). 

READ MORE: From the field to the washing machine, this is how the fast fashion cycle pollutes the environment

This innovation has caught the attention of shoe retailer Yukka Harlanda, who says they came to the realisation that they needed a “sustainable solution” to the production of their leather shoes.

However, costs for fungal leather shoes are higher than those of traditional leather shoes, but Adi Reza is optimistic, as his order books are filled up to the year 2027. 

Whether the mushroom shoes can compete with real leather in terms of longevity, remains to be seen. 

Compiled by Afika Jadezweni

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