- In a partnership marrying two sides of the fashion world, tannery Ecco Leather — a company from Ecco Shoes — is working with mycelium-based material brand Ecovative to create new leather-like alternatives, according to a company press release Thursday.
- The partnership is focused on creating new mycelium material options for footwear, fashion and apparel, per the release. Mycelium is the root-like structure that forms mushrooms, which Ecovative is able to grow and form into materials similar to foam and leather.
- Both companies are focused on maximizing the biodegradability of the material alternative and hope to make the material more commercialized by through further testing and prototyping.
With Ecovative being one of several companies focused on disrupting a centuries-old leather market, its collaboration with a traditional tannery holds a unique opportunity.
“Mycelium represents a brand new canvas on which we can create with both traditional and novel material processes. It removes the volatilities of the raw hide supply chain, while its fast and efficient growth allows us to bring a new material category to market, one that gives consumers an environmentally conscious choice over petrochemical-derived materials,” said Bart Hofman-Kronborg, group manufacturing director of Ecco Leather, in a statement. “Historically, tanneries have exclusively been associated with animal hides; with mycelium, this millenia-old industry can evolve, diversify and expand into a wider material market.”
Although the leather market continues to grow, data has shown that consumers are increasingly looking for alternatives to materials that uses animals and chemicals considered to be damaging to the environment. That said, those who still prefer animal leather indicated this was due to its quality and durability, according to a survey from the Material Innovation Initiative and North Mountain Consulting Group in March of last year.
Ecovative and Ecco Leather are aware of that concern though, and said they want to minimize the use of plastics sometimes utilized to make mycelium more on par with leather durability and functionality without compromising those standards.
Plenty of brands across the industry are looking to new forms of material to deal with environmental impact. Fruit of the Loom, Nike, Puma and The North Face have all introduced products made with recycled material over the past year. And plenty of money is being invested in technology companies that are innovating in this space, such as recycled cotton company Recover’s $100 million funding round in June that was led by Goldman Sachs Asset Management.