Thursday 14 July 2016

There's Mush Room For These New Fabrics...

The quest continues for new alternatives to the most polluting and simultaneously popular clothing materials on the planet. Cotton, even in its organic form, is thirsty stuff, and dependent on pesticides. Leather needs highly toxic chemicals in order to be tanned–these can find their way back into water tables. In an ideal world, there would be much safer and more sustainable alternatives.

Researchers across the globe have recently come across a promising lead in the search for a cleaner alternative in the shape of the humble mushroom. Quick and easy to grow, sure. An essential part of the Full English Breakfast, arguably. A replacement for shoe leather or the cotton in our t-shirts?

Well, maybe not quite yet, but the research is very promising. For example, Danish product designer Jonas Edvard has developed a product called Myx. The fibre is created from mycelium–the base layer on which mushrooms are commercially grown. Once its done the job, mycelium is usually thrown away. But Edvard mixes it with hemp and linen waste, byproducts of clothing and rope production. The end result is a stable, strong fibre with all kinds of uses. The mycelium gives Myx a resilient structure, helped by the natural occurrence in the material of chitin–the stuff that makes crustacean shells so strong. Low cost, environmentally friendly and making virtue out of waste products? These are all benefits we applaud highly here at The Pier. Hooray for Myx!

Over in Italy, R&D gurus Grado Zero Espace have come up with MuSkin, an entirely vegan alternative to leather. Made from mushroom caps and tanned without recourse to toxic chemicals, MuSkin is tough yet pliable and easy to adapt to all sorts of potential uses. Think of a material that has the texture of suede, but a much softer feel.

GZE have noted MuSkin's ability to absorb moisture and are looking to use it in items like shoe insoles and watch straps. It's also breathable and water repellent, so they've started making hats out of the stuff. They don't mention how easy it is to scale MuSkin up for commercial applications, but it's exciting to see how versatile it could be.

Our View: many of the materials we depend upon for our everyday clothing needs have been with us for a very long time. In fact, skins and furs would have been some of the first clothes we'd have ever worn. So it seems only right that in the 21st century we should be looking for alternatives. The old saying goes 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.' As cotton and leather are so rough on the environment, we'd say it's past time to look for a new solution.


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