What is Mushroom Leather? Everything You Need To Know

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with the latest in fashion, beauty and style!

What Makes Mushroom Leather Such A Great Vegan Leather Alternative?

Can mushroom leather change the way we perceive, wear and consume animal leather products?

As one of the world’s most purchased products, animal leather is the engine of an $80 billion industry.

However, the creation of animal leather requires the raising of animals, associated with CO2 emissions and the release of toxic chemicals.

The final material we call animal leather is heavily criticized by animal rights activists, environmentalists, and even fashion designers.

Luckily, mushroom leather has the answer to all these problems, and below you’ll see why.

What’s in this article:

What is Mushroom Leather?

Mushroom leather is a vegan-friendly material used as a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to animal leather.

Mushroom leather is made from mycelium, the vegetative part of a fungus.

A fungus (or fungi – plural) is any member of a group of eukaryotic organisms.

Fungi used in mushroom leather

Eukaryotic organisms include microorganisms such as molds and yeasts, as well as mushrooms.

Fungi have their own kingdom, different than the other life forms on this planet, such as plants and animals.

For that, mushrooms have UNIQUE capabilities.

The Uniqueness of Fungi

Mushrooms are already known for their tremendous benefits to the immune system, protection against cancer and even slowing down the aging process.

But fungi’s unique characteristics take their utility beyond food, to spiritual realms and beyond:

Mushrooms bridge death and life, chaos and form, energy and substance. As our ancestors crossed continents, they ingested different mushrooms which led to an increase in the size of their brain, as well as their cognitive output,

explains Paul Stamets, an American mycologist and author of the bestseller ‘Fantastic Fungi: How Mushrooms Can Heal, Shift Consciousness & Save the Planet’.

And more recently, there are certain types of fungi taking the world of fashion by storm:

Reishi, our first product, is a new category of material that is neither animal nor plastic. This type of mushroom leather is the perfect example of art, science, and advanced manufacturing blending to improve supply chains for fashion and luxury“,

said Philip Ross, founder of MycoWorks, a San Francisco start-up.

Philip Ross from MyCoworks making mushroom leather

Right now, in the fashion industry, mushrooms are seen as one of the most sustainable materials to work with.

Now, let’s see what mushroom fabric is, how it is made, and why the next generation of shoes and bags are going to be made of fungi!

What is Mycelium?

Mycelium is the network of filaments that form the underground thread-like structure of fungi.

Mycelium part of fungi

It is the branching structure of mushrooms, made from billions of tiny cells.

The mushroom is a tiny little part belonging to this huge organism that lives underground, called ‘mycelium’,

explains Ross.

Mycelium grows in the ground, as tiny white threads, forming vast networks under the forest floor.

How Large can a Mycelium Network Grow?

Well, let’s run a small comparison:

When you think of the biggest organisms on Earth, the blue whale might come first to mind.

Up to 30 meters long, blue whales weigh upward of 180 tons, making them larger than dinosaurs.

However, the world record holder for the largest living organism on Earth is not the blue whale…

… but a FUNGUS!

The largest organism in the world is fungi

More specifically, the largest known organism in the world is a honey fungus living in the Blue Mountains of Oregon.

The mycelium of this humongous organism occupies almost 2,400 acres (965 hectares) of soil, covering an area as big as 1,665 football fields.

The honey fungus gets its size from its ability to fuse into a single organism.

Mycelia from different individual honey fungus bodies meet and fuse to each other. For that, the connecting fungi must be genetically identical. When the mycelia fuse to each other, it creates large fungal bodies. This, in turn, blends extensive networks of fungal ‘clones’ into a single individual,

said Soil Scientist Jesse Morrison, from Mississippi State University.

Apart from growing naturally, mycelium can be cultivated in almost any kind of agricultural waste, from sawdust to pistachio shells.

In nature, mycelium already does many things that benefit the environment.

However, not many people know if mushrooms remain beneficial to the environment, once turned into a leather-like material…

The answer is yes!

How is Mushroom Leather Made?

The idea of making leather-like material from mushrooms goes back to 2012.

At that time, product designers Philip Ross and Jonas Edvard started experimenting with homeware products made from mycelium.

Furniture made from mushrooms

Shortly after, they discover the versatility of this organic material.

Mycelium can be used to make batteries, spaceships, and fashion. What I am trying to say is that the use of mycelium is scarily endless,

said Ross, at that time.

The process of making mushroom leather begins with selecting and moisturizing the right SUBSTRATE.

Mushroom substrate

Substrates are materials that mushrooms use as food and to grow on.

The most common substrates are wood chips, straw, corn, and any materials that the mushroom can attach to and grow.

Then, the substrate is dampened, put into a bag, and pasteurized.

This process kills interfering bacteria, so the mycelium growing process is easier and quicker.

How Long Does It Take to Grow Mushroom Leather?

Once the mycelium spawns, it is inserted into bags.

In the bags, the fungi start colonizing the compound.

Growing mushroom

From this point on, the making of mycelium leather requires only time and little attention.

The growing process takes between two to three weeks and depends on several factors:

  • Type of mushroom

  • Type of substrate used

  • Amount of sunlight

  • Level of humidity

  • Ventilation level

When the mass of mycelium reaches the desired size, it is thoroughly extracted from the bag and compressed to get the expected shape and size.

Can You Make Different Types of Mushroom Fabric?

Right now, there are several ways to make mushroom leather.

For example, during the compression procedure, the manufacturer can alter the material texture and color.

By adding dyes or changing the pressing form, the output can look and feel like any kind of animal leather, from cow to alligator, and python skin.

Finally, mushroom leather is dried and ready for use.

Moreover, these techniques are enhanced and improved every day.

How Sustainable is Mushroom Leather?

The making process of mushroom leather fits in the spirit of the circular economy and it is fully sustainable.

This natural fiber is biodegradable at the end of its life cycle.

Moreover, in this process, organic waste streams, such as agricultural waste, are valorized.

Also, this type of leather alternative can reduce the need for industrial animal agriculture, the leading supplier of animal leather for fashion.

Animal leather market vs synthetic leather market size
Adapted from grandviewresearch.com

One of the fascinating properties of mushroom leather comes from its positive environmental impact.

A positive impact that goes beyond replacing animal leather and synthetic leather…

… Like solving the plastic pollution problem.

Utrecht University research on fungi eating plastic

Mushroom Leather is Closed-Loop

Mushroom leather production is entirely closed-loop.

Closed-loop manufacturing in fashion means that the used materials must come from post-consumer waste.

These products are recycled, repurposed, and converted into eco-friendly products.

In the making of mushroom leather, corn cobs, wood chips, and straw are post-consumer waste.

Making mushroom leather

These discarded materials are mixed in with mushroom spawn to create mycelium, which later on is used to make vegan-friendly leather.

Moreover, the waste resulting from the making of mushroom leather can be reused as a smoking product in beekeeping or as an organic crop fertilizer.

Overall, mushroom leather is an environmentally friendly material because it can be grown and produced without any polluting substances.

And, at the end of its life, the material is completely biodegradable and compostable.

Mushroom Leather is Beneficial for Human Skin

In the apparel industry, mushroom leather is lightweight and very flexible, which makes it practical for a wide range of products.

ZVNDER, fashion accessories made from mushroom leather

Moreover, tests conducted by ZVNDER, a German company that specialized in mushroom leather accessories show that:

When in direct contact with the skin, mushroom leather shoes have improved athlete’s foot condition. Even as watch straps, this material prevents skin irritation in people suffering from eczema.

Also, given its highly absorbent natural characteristic, mushroom leather can take in a lot of moisture.

As such, shoes made of mushroom leather do not require harmful chemical sprays to get rid of bad odors anymore.

Nat-2 mushroom leather shoes

Another decisive factor – for human skin – is the material’s unique capacity for holding a high amount of air.

For that, the products made of this material are not only unusually light but also have an excellent insulating effect.

Best Mushrooms to Make Leather From

Right now, the most common type of mycelium used in mushroom leather comes from commercial OYSTER mushrooms.

Commercial oyster mushrooms

But, there are companies out there using particular types of mushrooms seeking to obtain unique leather attributes.

One of these innovative materials made from mushrooms is MuSkin™.


MuSkin™ is made from Phellinus Ellipsoideus, a big parasitic fungus that grows in the wild and attacks the trees in the subtropical forests.

Another big mushroom leather manufacturer is Bolt Threads.

The company is trialing several types of fungi, and Mylo is their most popular leather alternative to date.

Mylo by Bolt Threads

The company is very outspoken about the benefits of replacing animal leather with its unique material:

As disposable incomes rise around the globe, we won’t be able to meet the demand for meat — and leather consumer goods — by exploiting the animals on this planet. By comparison, the mycelia we grow for Mylo™ is produced in days, without the resource intensity of raising livestock,

said the company’s spokesman.

Indeed, the making of mushroom leather requires minimal resources, water, and electricity.

There’s no need to raise livestock, associated greenhouse gases, material waste, and so on.

Bolt Threads mushroom leather bag

In comparison to synthetic leather – made from fuel fossil-based fabrics such as polyurethane and PVC – mushroom leathers are natural fabrics made from mycelium.

Mushroom Leather VS Animal Leather

As a consumer, you must decide which material you prefer to wear.

To do so, you have to compare and understand the differences in processing, manufacturing, and benefits of one, over the other.

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with the latest in fashion, beauty and style!

At first glance, both types of leather look similar.

However, these are two products remarkably different and we’ve put together 9 FACTORS to consider before you make your choice:

Creation of Pollution

The production of animal leather creates enormous amounts of pollution.

A piece of leather – ready to be sold – goes through a long process of tanning which requires numerous dyes and chemicals.

Leather environmental pollution

These unnecessary artificial chemicals are toxic to people and the environment.

For example, one of the most common problems in tanneries is Chromium contamination.

Chromium is a popular hardening agent used to create animal leather.

Tanneries produce water and solid waste which contain Chromium.

Eventually, this metal makes its way into the water, air, soil, and the food of nearby communities.

Animal leather tanning pollution

This chemical is known to cause liver failure, kidney damage, lung cancer, and premature dementia.

It also makes the water undrinkable and it pollutes the marine life that is eventually used as food.

Finally tanning animal leather harms the environment by filling the air with eye-burning fumes.

Leather air and soil pollution

Research shows that the air and the soil around the tanneries are so toxic, that the areas where grass, trees, flowers, and crops once grew are now replaced by acidic foam.

Leather pollution
Source: Higgs Material Sustainability index

Although regulations have been put in place – to stop pollution – since 1986, tanneries continue to use toxic chemicals.

Sadly, animal leather pollution does not stop there.

Killing of Animals

Since most leather is a by-product of the meat industry, we must take into account this aspect as well.

Animal suffering in leather industry

Raising animals to brutally slaughter and use their skin for fashion presents serious ecological and ethical issues.

Resources Overconsumption

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the meat industry alone uses roughly about 30 percent of the world’s ice-free land to support the production of cattle.

It also uses one-third of the world’s freshwater and accounts for nearly one-fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In comparison, mushroom leather does not require harmful chemicals, water, or energy expenditure.

Ability to Recycle & Reuse

Moreover, mushroom leather and its substrate can be reused again and again, as post-consumer waste.

However, besides resource depletion, recycling and pollution, there are other factors to consider when choosing between these two products.

Manufacturing Time

For once, the time difference that it takes to make these products is enormous!

It takes three years to raise a cattle to a decent size that would allow the grower to get one piece of usable leather. THREE YEARS!

On the other hand, as mushrooms grow at an exponential rate, it takes only a couple of weeks for the fungi to consume their substrate completely and turn it into a leather-like alternative.

Instead of waiting for the material, you, have to keep up with it!

Manufacturing Flexibility

Another significant factor in the advantage of mushroom leather is its superb manufacturing flexibility.

You can turn its surface look into any shape, size, or animal skin you can think of.

Mushroom leather in different size, shape and colour

You can create different patterns, colors, and textures that regular leather would never be able to let you do.

Fungi are very sensitive and will change their growth in relationship to how they’re being poked, moved, and so on. For example, if you put it in a cup, it would take the shape of the cup,

says Philip Ross.

Quality Level

Another subject often debated is the quality and resistance of mushroom leather.

The fragile look of mycelium might make you think that this leather can break apart like a piece of paper.

However, there’s nothing to worry about the material ripping apart because several tests have shown the material to be as strong as deerskin!

Manufacturing Costs

Finally, the last comparable factor is its price.

Right now, mushroom leather costs about the same as high-end animal leather.

The price remains quite high because the amount produced remains low.

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with the latest in fashion, beauty and style!

However, the companies mentioned above are already working to produce higher volumes and predict a drop in the manufacturing cost of mushroom leather to just 5$ a square foot.

5$ per square foot is cheap than any type of leather anywhere in the world.

Moreover, a lower price than animal leather is key to making mushroom leather succeed in the future.

Mushroom Leather Smell

Oh, one more thing to consider, especially since we are in the fashion business here:

How does mushroom leather smell?

Well, before we start talking about the smell of mushroom leather, you have to know that the ‘nice’ leather smell comes from the chemicals used to make it.

Animal skin smells like meat.

However, as animal leather is a human-made product, it is packed with chemicals and other ingredients to give it extra shine, flexibility, smell, and so on.

So before I got my hands on a few patches of mushroom leather, I always wondered how it would smell.

Hard to describe the smell; it is not great but not bad either.

To me, it has a natural smell, almost like the books at the library.

One thing is for sure; it does not smell like animal leather.

Moreover knowing what it takes to give animal leather its ‘fresh odor’ that some people love so much, I prefer the smell of mushroom leather.

What’s Next for Mushroom Leather?

If we take into consideration the above points, it is safe to say that mushroom leather has far more appeal to designers who choose to work with sustainable materials.

And if you have not heard of luxury shoes made of mushroom leather, get ready as they’re coming soon.

Many high-end fashion designers are already using mushroom leather in their products, and you can order yours right now.

For example, Stella McCarney’s famous Falabella bag is made with Bolt Threads’ Mylo mushroom leather.

Stella McCarney's famous Falabella bag made from mushroom leather

Similarly, Nat-2 is a German company known for its high-end sustainable sneakers using leather-like material from the Tinder Fungus.

Nat-2 x Zvnder Vegan Sneakers

This is a rare mushroom that gives the products a ‘vintage look’.


The possibilities of what we can create with mushroom leather are endless.

However, as mushroom leather is – arguably – still a new material, it needs time to gain reputation, acceptance, and mass consumption.

Another two main problems impacting the adoption of mushroom leather are:

  • Preconceived idea is that animal leather is the best

  • High cost associated with the making of mushroom leather

Nevertheless, given the sustainable wave that’s sweeping the fashion industry right now, it’s not long before mushroom leather gains higher production volumes and lower manufacturing prices.

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with the latest in fashion, beauty and style!

Soon, we should see trendy bags, biker jackets, high-heels, and accessories from mushroom leather in shops all over the world.

Also, before we close the article, know that there are several animal leather alternatives similar to mushroom leathers, such as pineapple leather, apple leather, and even cactus leather.

As fashion designers, it is our job to be informed of the latest sustainable materials and take advantage of them.

Being conscious of the environmental impact of our designs, in combination with creativity and material innovativeness, can open doors to a more sustainable future.

Did I miss anything?…

Now, it’s your turn.

In your opinion, is mushroom leather going to replace its animal counterpart?

Do you have any mushroom leather products?

If not, which product would you buy and try first?

Share with us your favorite leather alternative fabric.

Would love to hear your thought and comments below!

A University of Oxford graduate in Design History, Katherine Saxon is researching arising TikTok cultures from a consumer psychology perspective while covering emerging aesthetics in fashion and beauty for TheVOU, Forbes, Business Insider, and more.

Similar Articles


  1. Does mushroom leather smell? when you buy animal leather it has a very strong scent so I wanted to know if this leather is the same?!

  2. I was able to find good info from your article about mushroom leather for a vegan leather jacket I want to make. Thank you, will keep you updated with my result!

  3. It seems at the moment it is mostly small objects made out of mushroom, have not come across many mushroom leather bags or coats. am I right?

  4. I really want to buy a mushroom leather handbag, the only place I can find them is Etsy, where else can I get them?

  5. Tnx for including more other suppliers like MycoWorks. I just found Mylo (bolt Thread) when I searched for Mushroom leather.

  6. Another important advantage (besides the environmental benefits) is the durability of mushroom leather. A new study published recently in the journal Nature Sustainability shows leather alternative textiles made from fungi look, feel, and are as durable as leather made from cows or synthetic fabrics.

  7. I have not been able to find a high-quality mushroom leather jacket, I need it to be waterproof as I will be using it for motorbike rides. any suggestions?

  8. I bought a mushroom leather card holder for Christmas and I am loving it. will definitely buy more mushroom leather items.

  9. What is the texture of mushroom leather like? I have seen a pineapple leather (pinatex) jacket and it is quite wrinkly, was wondering if anyone knew what mushroom leather looks like?

  10. I saw a documentary about how they make animal leather and ever since that I have been put off buying leather and I have a lot of leather shoes, bags and coats that I need to get rid of. I want to shift to vegan or mushroom leather entirely, any ideas on how to do this?

  11. Vegan leather and mushroom leather are much less durable than real leather and sometimes much more expensive than real leather, why would you want to buy them?

  12. Oh, yes, I saw that documentary too, It was amazing. Does anyone here know a documentary about mushrooms, please?

  13. I read your article last week and purchased a mushroom leather bracelet because of it! I love it, I wear it with all my outfits now. In love!!

  14. Love to see these innovative fabrics, and would love to shift from animal leather to vegan leather, but TBH I’m not sure how durable they are!

  15. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this outstanding blog! I guess for now I’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will talk about this site with my Facebook group.

    Talk soon!

  16. Thank you, I’ve just been looking for information about mushroom leather for a while and yours is the best I’ve discovered so far.

  17. Short but very precise, thank you for sharing this article on what is mushroom leather.
    A must-read post for all fashion vegans out there, and not only!

  18. I like that you guys cover the alternatives to the animal leather subject and anything about vegan fashion! Really clever work and coverage, I’ve included you guys on my personal blogroll.

  19. I am reading this enormous educational piece of writing about mushroom leather, here at my home, and love every bit of it. You did a fantastic job, can you also make a detailed article about cactus leather – what it is, where to buy it, fashion brands that make shoes and bags from cactus leather, please?!!!

  20. So what’s better to buy and wear? Mushroom leather, cork, cactus leather, or what other material alternatives to animal leather do you recommend for a vegan leather jacket?

    I am not vegan but I want a vegan leather jacket (personal reasons) and I want it to last, to look good, and to form that animal leather patina.

    Any suggestions, please?

  21. Been looking for a good article on mushroom leather, and this one is excellent. I love what you guys are up to. Especially this sort of informative post about niche topics in fashion!
    Keep up the good works guys, I’ve added you guys into my own blogroll 😉

  22. I came across the world of mushroom leather and Mylo about a month ago and now I’m convinced this could change the future of the leather industry. That being said, does anybody know how to invest in mushroom leather, or where to buy it from?

  23. Lots of excellent information here about mushroom leather and how to use it to create vegan handbags. My question is, what is the best vegan leather alternative out there right now? I heard a lot of fashion designers use cactus leather, is that the best? Also, what is the cheapest vegan leather alternative I can use, and finally, where can I order some samples at a low cost to try them myself? See if I can stitch them, the quality, durability, smell, etc. Many thanks for everything you’re doing, you’re such an invaluable source of information for new fashion designers like me!

  24. Which kind of alternative leather is better and cheaper to make vegan handbags from? Cactus leather or mushroom leather, and why? Many thanks for publishing this!

  25. So how expensive is mushroom leather compared to animal leather or cactus leather? I hear it is about 5$ per square foot, and if that’s true, it is cheaper than any type of leather anywhere in the world. Moreover, a lower price than animal leather is key to making mushroom leather succeed in the future, no?

  26. This article has top-level information about mushroom leather! I used it at the uni and got the highest mark possible from the whole year – thank you so so so so much, Katherine!

  27. I guess it might depend on which variety of mushroom used, but I’m wondering more about its utility than fashion. Like for work gloves / boots. I’d want it to protect against thorns/barbs. Be somewhat water repellent. You want it to be biodegradable, but not too biodegradable. You don’t want it to crap out in the middle of the day, you have to know your gloves are wearing out. Boots should last at least a year, that’s how long relatively cheap pleather ones last. Even if its not to the point of high durability utility use like those, I think a belt would be nice. Again, as long as you aren’t just shoveling money to replace it super frequently.

  28. We are only discovering the power of mushroom leather here in the middle east. Great article, would love to see a list of the best mushroom leather manufacturers right now, or a list of all mushroom leather designers. That would be amazing and really appreciated.

  29. Man, I love this kind of article that shows the endless ways you can use mushrooms nowadays. I am not a designer but I work in pharma and we’re doing a lot of supplements from mushrooms. The reason I comment here is that we have a crazy surplus of post-production mycelium that we usually discard and if there’s anyone here, designer, or manufacturer, that want’s it, I’d be more than happy to help. All free, up to 5 tones of mycelium every month, you’ll have to organize the collection.

  30. Spot on write-up with this article about leather alternatives, I truly believe that this is one of the best articles about mushroom leather online right now. It got me a top mark at school, don’t tell my teacher!! 😉

  31. What’s the cheapest mushroom leather manufacturer in the US right now? Can any of you suggest some good qual, reliable manufacturers of mushroom leather here in the US? I know of some Chinese and European brands but I prefer someone in the US or even Canada.

  32. Asking all mushroom leather experts and fashion designers here, what’s the best next level leather alternative after mushroom leather? Cactus leather? Apple leather? And most importantly, why is it better? Many thanks

  33. One of the best mushroom leather alternative articles on the internet, can you please write a follow-up article with brands that manufacture mushroom leather, prices, and how to buy it? Mushroom leather is very popular in Asia right now, and most brands use it.

  34. Quick question: apple leather vs cactus leather, vs mushroom leather.
    Which one is the cheapest, most durable, and most malleable, as in the best leather alternative to make shoes from?
    Thanks in anticipation, Lynn

  35. I am looking for a job in mushroom leather manufacturing, I have over 5 years of experience working in Portugal for a shoe company.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.