Adidas is Making Sneakers out of Mushrooms

Jennifer Grant April 20, 2021 0 comments

Stan Smith Mylo sneakers, by Adidas, are the latest innovation in vegan leather made from mushroom mycelium.

From fiber to fabric to growing new organs, mushrooms are changing the way humans live. As a part of Kingdom Fungi, mushrooms are neither plant nor animal. Instead, they are decomposers or saprophytes that get nutrition from dead organic material. Mushroom mycelium (root-like hairs) form an underground structure that is highly durable and dense. And this is presently forming the foundation for a promising vegan leather product for Adidas.

Generally, mycelium can be used to make plastic, vegan meat, and even as a scaffolding for growing organs. Its latest incarnation, mushroom leather, is a type of vegan leather that is not only environmentally-friendly, but waterproof, fire-resistant, and extremely durable. It is a non-toxic alternative to animal and petroleum-based leather products.

What is Vegan Leather?

Mushroom leather is a great alternative to its vegan leather predecessors, including a petroleum-based plastic product called polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Since PVC is made from fossil fuels, and is not biodegradable, the end product its both destructive to the environment and bad for human health.

Mushroom leather, on the other hand, is similar in look and feel to animal-based leather. Plus it is flexible, soft (think suede), and resistant to bacteria. The material whisks water away, preventing bacteria and mold from growing. Moreover, this vegan leather biotech product is cruelty-free and highly renewable.

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Stan Smith Mylo mushroom mycelium vegan leather shoes being designed

Mylo Mushroom Leather Technology and Adidas

Adidas made an announcement from their website in April 2021, that the Stan Smith classic shoe would be the first sneaker made from mushroom leather. That’s in the world.

The Stan Smith Mylo shoes have a natural rubber mid-sole. And mushroom leather makes up the body of the sneaker. Adidas is a German company with a ‘Made With Nature’ initiative that is part of a plan to be plastic-free by 2024. This mushroom shoe experiment is a key part of the plan.

Who is Stan Smith? He is a tennis player that was active in the 1960s until the early 1980s. The Adidas Stan Smith sneaker has a classic design that is basic white and sporting the well known green Adidas logo. The Stan Smith Mylo is the same design with one very significant difference – mushrooms. While it looks and feels like animal leather, this new material is renewable and environmentally sound (not to mention cruelty-free). Bolt Threads, a biotechnology company, developed the vegan leather product.

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Interestingly, Mylo has been heavily invested in by other companies including Stella McCartney, LuluLemon, and Kering (parent company of Gucci). The fashion industry goal is to scale up technology for Mylo and bring the material to mass market. Importantly, the objective is to reduce the environmental impact of animal-based leather and vegan leather products made from plastics.

The classic Stan Smith shoe.

How is Mushroom Leather Made?

Mycelium is the root structure of mushrooms. These are tiny, thread-like roots that form a network underground. When a mushroom grows in the forest, a dense mat of mycelium is laid down first and once this is done, the mushroom is grown. Mushroom mycelium break down organic matter in the soil, making nutrients available to plants and trees.
Mushroom leather technology, however, prevents the mushroom from growing. Instead, the mycelium grows into a set structure by controlling humidity, airflow, and carbon dioxide. In just two weeks, the mycelium mass can grow to more than two pounds. It is then process and dyed.

Sustainability is the Future of Fashion

It has become clear that humans need to reverse the destruction they have created on Earth. We’ve made a complete mess of the environment and continue to endorse factory farming and general cruelty to animals. In addition, the fashion industry is a constant call to consume and discard. A few industry leaders, like Adidas are trying to change this, and this is where we should put our support.
Truly, biotech is one of the most powerful ways we have to turn this around thing around. By using fast growing organisms, like mushrooms, we can devise renewable products that do no harm the environment in their creation nor in their discarding.
Author avatar

Jennifer Grant

Jennifer is Editor in Chief for Rxleaf. She has been employed as a professional writer for over fifteen years. Jennifer graduated from the University of Guelph with an Honors Biological Science degree, majoring in the biomedical field.

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