How Lab Grown Leather Is Changing The Fashion Industry

Over the years, sustainable fashion has been gaining more and more traction from consumers concerned about the fashion industry's impact on the environment. It's a hot button topic that's thrown around a lot, but the amount of clothes that end up in landfills shows that the conversation is far from over. The United States Environmental Protection Agency reported that in 2018, 11.3 million tons of textile waste were dumped in landfills.

Fashion's waste issue seems to grow larger every year, with the production of fast fashion (which is often low quality and unethically made) contributing to the problem. But there are brands that are actively paving the way for more sustainability. More companies are turning to recyclable materials and vegan fabrics for their products. Per The Vou, vegan leather can be made using so many natural, sustainable alternatives including kombucha tea and mushrooms. Some fashion brands are even experimenting with lab-grown leather as another way to reduce pollution.

A new kind of vegan leather emerges

Vegan leather is an eco-friendly alternative to the animal-based product, but for maximum impact, the material it's made from needs to be clean. Per Vogue, many of the products made from vegan leather include the plastic polyurethane as an ingredient, which in turn comes from fossil fuels. Enter, lab-grown leather. Companies are using innovative technology and natural materials to create this environmentally-conscious product. 

Biotech company Bolt Threads' lab-grown leather Mylo is made from fungal cells, and the mycelium growth then feeds on sawdust (via Vogue). Vice president of product development Jamie Bainbridge told Vogue that this process is what makes the leather alternative look and feel so realistic. "When you touch our material, you get the same feeling as when you're touching a natural leather," he explained. "If nobody told you whether it was leather or not, you would sit there and try to decide if it was."

In March 2021, fashion designer Stella McCartney debuted clothes created with Bolt Threads' mushroom leather, as reported by Engadget. According to her press release, the two brands teamed up with model and actress Paris Jackson to promote McCartney's black bustier top and matching pants made entirely of the sustainable, cruelty-free material.