End the duopoly

That Mushroom Motorcycle Jacket Will Never Go Out of Style

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Antoni Gandia

There are traditionally two ways to make a leather jacket. One involves a cow, and takes years. Another involves synthetic fabric, and requires plastic. But there’s a third option: thick sheets of woven fungus, grown over a couple of weeks on anything from sawdust to agricultural waste.

“It feels a bit and smells a bit like mushroom, still, but it looks like a piece of old leather jacket,” said Alexander Bismarck, a materials scientist at the University of Vienna.

Over the last decade, companies in the United States, Indonesia and Korea have touted fungal leather as an ethical and environmentally sustainable replacement for both cow skin and plastic. Previously, there wasn’t much research to support their claims. But a study published by Dr. Bismarck and his colleagues last week in Nature Sustainability finds that fungal leathers stack up quite well when it comes to versatility and sustainability.

Wearing fungal leather doesn’t mean wearing a mushroom motorcycle jacket. Instead it’s made from a mat of mycelium, the underlying threadlike root networks from which fruiting bodies pop up after a rain. These mycelial mats grow easily on just about any organic material.

Beginning in the 1950s, inventors began to file patents based around fungal […]

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