As industries look for ways to work in better harmony with the planet, there are exciting opportunities to bridge traditional craft with the cutting edge of materials. Some of the areas where the biggest positive environmental potential exists are in fashion. That’s why we are proud to partner with ECCO Leather.
Ecovative’s Forager division is focused on leather-like hides and high performance foams made with pure mycelium. Forager hides are a next-generation biomaterial, with all the great qualities of animal hide and almost none of the environmental impacts, such as plastics or chemical-intensive processing. Plastics pose a huge hurdle to meeting the high standards of fashion and apparel, while leather and even mycelium materials on the market from other companies use petroleum for finish and durability. Our mycelium materials use no plastic backing or internal reinforcement, which others often require for strength and durability. Now these mycelium materials are being put to use by one of world’s best tanneries, with the goal of creating new lines of sustainable shoes, apparel and accessories. The result could transform fashion for the better, forever.
This partnership is the first of its kind, linking an industry-leading tannery with cutting-edge biomaterials. Leather tanning — the process that turns animal hides into premium leather — is a centuries-old industry and tradition with deep artisanal roots. It’s also constantly innovating new methods and materials, in an effort to be more cost-effective and environmentally friendly. Our AirMycelium technology produces 100% pure mycelium hides to custom specifications, while ECCO Leather’s has innovated new tannery processes like DriTan, requiring less time, chemicals, and water than traditional textile finishing methods. Ecovative’s goal has always been to provide materials that can easily fit easily into existing processes to make them more circular and regenerative. Our materials are grown on the leftovers of agriculture, up-cycling valuable raw materials that would otherwise go to waste. At the beginning of this partnership, we supplied ECCO Leather’s tanning experts with our mycelium hides, which they worked into truly gorgeous materials, ready for products worthy of the runway.
Now, ECCO Leather and Ecovative have formed a development loop. First, we provide materials for ECCO Leather to test. Based on their feedback regarding performance, texture, and other attributes, Ecovative’s Foundry tests and develops new, custom-tuned mycelium materials, which go through the process until arriving at the perfect material for a product or application. In this way, we are developing brand new, sustainable materials that will supply ECCO Leather’s own brands and its material partner network. This marks the beginning of the mycelium materials supply chain for the wider fashion industry.
The possibilities are exciting to imagine. For instance, in addition to leather-like hides, Forager is also developing high performance foams that can replace the cushioning in shoes, car seats, and all kinds of other products. These new innovations could replace a lot of the unsustainable materials used in the average shoe today that take a lot of energy to produce, and will mostly end up in landfills. Once the new generation of mycelium materials reaches commercial scale shoes (and later, many other things) can be grown and finished into a product with a fraction of the environmental impact.
This partnership is expected to bring innovative mycelium materials to global scale, and meet a quickly growing demand for products that are good for the planet. We see this partnership as the path to a future of regenerative consumer goods and materials.