Mushroom leather is becoming a hot commodity for fashion brands looking for real leather alternatives. Now Ecovative, a New York-based material innovation company, sees the industry as its next big opportunity for growth, and plans to boost production to be the first to offer leather-like replacements at scale by the end of the year.

Ecovative grows mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, and turns it into products that can substitute for leather, as well as offerings in other sectors, like meat alternatives. The team served as the initial supplier for Bolt Threads’s Mylo mushroom leather, which Stella McCartney piloted in a two-piece vegan collection earlier this year. Ecovative announced this week a $60 million Series D financing round, which will be used to expand production and potential applications. CEO Eben Bayer sees mycelium as a solution in slashing fashion’s footprint by shifting the industry away from leather, and says it is now ready to scale its own operation and is targeting fashion clients, signalling growing opportunity and increased competition in the once-nascent category.

Myomi handbag made with mycelium “leather”.

Ecovative

“Our mission is to make mycelium available broadly at scale,” he says. The company plans to take lessons learned from its food business and apply it to textiles, Bayer adds. “To date, both fashion brands and their consumers have not had access to mycelium beyond limited quantities — we are dedicated to changing that.”

Interest in plant-based alternatives to leather is soaring, both as demand for vegan fashion heats up and as the industry seeks to lower its carbon footprint. Animal agriculture is a significant source of global emissions and tropical deforestation, and brands are increasingly willing to experiment with the alternatives to the staple material that are coming on the market. Earlier this month, Hermès, a top purveyor of luxury leather goods, announced plans to use a leather-like material out of mycelium developed with MycoWorks in one of its bags by the end of the year.

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In addition to Bolt Threads and Ecovative, MycoWorks also works with mycelium, Natural Fiber Welding uses cork, natural rubber and other natural materials to make its Mirum leather-like material, and a number of other companies work with residues from crops like grapes and pineapple to make their own replacements. None of these are used at scale, though; the crop waste leathers have had limited adoption by fashion, and while a number of large or notable brands have taken an interest in Bolt Threads, the company has collaborated on proof-of-concept products but not delivered a full-scale production run. Ecovative wants to become the first to offer a plant-based leather alternative that’s ready to scale, and could up the ante in fashion’s race for leather replacements that are both more sustainable and higher quality, with a more attractive look and feel, than plastic-based vegan materials.