Artist and inventor Philip Ross began using mycelium in the 1990s as a medium for sculpture. In 2013, he co-founded MycoWorks with Sophia Wang. MycoWorks first produced mycelium bricks for building and containers. In 2016, the company created a leather-like material and has continued to innovate in this space. Vartest, a third-party testing company, tested MycoWorks Reishi mycelium leather across hundreds of samples and protocols and released data from the most recent version in January 2020. Their results indicate that Reishi matches the strength and durability of bovine leather.
In February 2020, MycoWorks presented Reishi™ Fine Mycelium™ at New York Fashion Week to accolades from influencers and designers in the fashion industry. Reishi is said to meet the growing need for sustainable options for leather without compromising performance, quality, or aesthetics.
Also in February 2020, MycoWorks announced that the company had raised $17 million in Series A financing to bring Reishi to market, led by DCVC Bio, with major participation from Novo Holdings and 8VC, among others. This funding will allow MycoWorks to expand production by opening a third facility with the capacity to produce 80,000 square feet (approximately 7400 square meters) per year. MycoWorks will also be able to increase the number of partnerships and support launches of products already prototyped and tested for nearly two years.
In mid-2020, MycoWorks announced the formation of a Scientific Advisory Board as well as additions to their executive team.
Reishi Fine Mycelium is a new material that emulates the collagen structure in animal leathers. Reishi sheets are grown in MycoWorks’ production facilities in California and tanned without chromium by partners in Europe. According to the company and to independent tests, Reishi can provide brands with the same performance, quality, and aesthetics as leather without the use of animals or plastic.
Three types of Reishi have been tested: Brown Natural, Brown Natural High Strength, and Black Emboss.
Production process: Mycelial growth
MycoWorks uses a patented technology that enhances the interwoven mycelial threads of a Ganoderma species of mushroom. Like other mycelium-based materials, Reishi is grown from waste, but the composition of their growth medium is not revealed in their materials. MycoWorks uses only plant-based dyes and chromium-free chemicals in the dyeing and tanning processes.
Reishi Fine Mycelium is more sustainable than bovine and petroleum-based leathers in a number of categories. Mycelial growth is inherently less energy and water intensive than growing and processing animal hides and creating plastic alternatives. Reishi is entirely biodegradable and less toxic to much less toxic to the environment than bovine leathers and plastic alternatives. Because mycelium can be grown in molds to specific shapes, there is little to no waste.
A table of Reishi’s™ Vartest results is shown below.
FASHION, HOME GOODS, AUTOMOTIVE
MycoWorks is working with a number of designers in fashion, home goods, and the automotive industry. Partnerships and products are to be revealed in 2020.
Images from MycoWorks.