PVH and Bestseller are first in line to trial New York-based firm Ecovative’s mycelium “Forager” hides in a new cooperative revealed today.
Founded in 2007, Ecovative’s mission is to create next-generation materials via mycelium (mushroom root) biofabrication and to, eventually, expand accessibility across industries like food, textiles and packaging.
No formal timeline is set for the ongoing pilot but the goal is to further refine Ecovative’s AirMycelium technology — hand in hand with fashion brands — over the next six to nine months. Today, the technology is already deployed at Ecovative’s vertical farm in Green Island, N.Y., and capable of growing vegan, bio-based Forager hides at scale in nine days.
Ecovative first launched its Forager hides leather alternative in March 2021 (essentially its 1.0 version), calling on more than five years of research and development. The 100 percent bio-based mycelium material is grown in sheets up to 24 meters in length and 1.8 meters wide, and can be grown to partners’ specific performance needs.
This process bypasses petroleum and animal origins, like many vegan leather alternatives aspire to do.
“Today, the Forager hide is an entirely bio-based product,” Gavin McIntyre, Ecovative cofounder and chief business officer, told WWD. “There are no plastics within our product, and we currently align ourselves with tanneries that can provide their best-in-class craftsmanship to providing the finish and aesthetics that brands come to recognize. Our focus is to align ourselves continually with organizations that intend not to use plastics within our product.”
As to whether shoppers can expect PVH’s suite of brands or Bestseller to roll out Forager products soon, McIntyre stressed that “these individual brand partners will have the opportunity to work with the most recent improvements coming out of our laboratories to then start to develop a range of concept products that meet their needs.” Product rollout is “completely contingent depending on how they want to work with the material and what product opportunities they think are the best application for our materials,” per McIntyre, but could happen as soon as next year.
Anders Schorling Overgård, Bestseller’s sustainable materials engineer, spoke to the “great potential” with mycelium. “We are keen on diving into the product development phase and really understanding the aesthetics and actual performance of Ecovative’s innovative materials in the lab,” Overgård said in a statement. “This pilot enables us to gain more insight into mycelium as a leather alternative, which ultimately is both biodegradable and fully bio-based.”
Echoing that excitement, Rebecca England, vice president of innovation at PVH Europe, said working with mycelium innovations and Ecovative will allow PVH to respond to a “growing consumer interest in lower impact products” without sacrifice to quality and design.
Alongside the brands, Amsterdam-based nonprofit Fashion for Good (which Ecovative has been working with for the past three years) is also a strategic partner as Ecovative refines production.
Eventually, Ecovative looks to build production sites that are closer to the end-user, eyeing tanneries and European fashion markets, as it closes in on its mission to make mycelium available for all.
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