MycoWorks, a biomaterials startup located in San Francisco, aims to develop its first full-scale mushroom leather manufacturing factory in Union County, South Carolina, with the capacity to generate several million square feet of the unique new material each year. MycoWorks will spend $107 million in Union County, which will result in the creation of 400 new jobs.
The new facility, which is expected to open in 2023, is based on MycoWorks’ semi-automated pilot plant in Emeryville, California, which produced over 10,000 trays of the mycelium mushroom roots used to make the material, demonstrating the scalability of the company’s patented mushroom leather-making process. In traditional leather-making, one tray of mycelium is equal to half an animal hide.
MycoWorks’ leather-like Fine Mycelium materials and platform, including its flagship product Reishi, were founded in 2013 and are manufactured from mushrooms’ fast-growing root systems. The proprietary technique used by the business creates a natural material that has the same performance as traditional animal leathers while having a smaller environmental effect. Unlike animal skin, however, it can be created to order and to the exact requirements of fashion and luxury firms interested in using it.
The Forefront of Materials Revolution
After a successful $125 million Series C investment round headed by Prime Movers Lab, MycoWorks has decided to expand its operations in South Carolina. While the majority of the funding will be used to construct the new facility, the firm will also use the funds to expand its workforce and continue research and development to strengthen its mushroom leather platform.
“What MycoWorks has achieved with its Fine Mycelium platform is not just a breakthrough, it is a revolution for industries that are ripe for change… This opportunity is massive, and we believe that unrivaled product quality combined with a proprietary, scalable manufacturing process has MycoWorks poised to serve as the backbone of the new materials revolution,” stated David Siminoff, General Partner at Prime Movers Lab.
MycoWorks will be able to satisfy the increased demand for its materials thanks to the new production facility. Last year, MycoWorks announced its first collaboration with Hermès, which included the use of its unique Sylvania material on the Hermès Victoria purse. In the next year, MycoWorks aims to announce more high-profile brand collaborations across a range of price points as it advances towards mass manufacturing.
The Popularity of Mycelium
Big companies are taking note of the blossoming leather industry, which isn’t without competition. Bolt Threads, a startup, makes “Mylo,” a vegan leather made from mycelium, and has teamed with a number of businesses to bring it to market. Stella McCartney, an eco-conscious designer, uses Bolt Thread’s Mylo mushroom leather exclusively and launched the first mushroom-leather trousers and purse last year. Adidas is also collaborating with Bolt Threads to develop new and classic shoe styles using the company’s sustainable material.
Lululemon’s new concept yoga mat is totally made of Mylo, and it comes with two bags made of the vegan mushroom leather. “Sustainable innovation will continue to play a key role in the future of retail and product, and for us, leveraging a material like Mylo demonstrates our commitment to creating a healthier environment through lower-impact products, while also giving us the ability to reimagine iconic pieces in our line through a sustainability lens,” stated Sun Choe, Chief Product Officer at Lululemon.
VH Corp. (parent company of fashion brands Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger) and BESTSELLER (parent business of 20 brands including ONLY, JACK & JONES, and VERO MODA) have teamed up with biotechnology startup Ecovative to produce unique mycelium materials for the mass market.
Ecovative has been creating mycelium materials for partners in North America, Europe, and Asia for more than a decade. To assist tackle the fashion industry’s sustainability concerns, the business introduced Forager Hides, a vegan leather based on Ecovative’s second-generation mycelium materials, earlier this year.
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