Founded in 2016 by Aniela Hoitink, Neffa is an early-stage startup that has developed a mycelium-based material called MycoTEX. Grown on 3D molds, MycoTEX is used to create seamless accessories and garments. The production process and limited inputs of MycoTEX present opportunities for simplifying supply chains, reducing the waste and costs associated with manufacturing, and reducing the waste and pollution associated with garment disposal.
In 2017, Neffa participated in the Fashion for Good early-stage accelerator program and went on to win the H&M Foundation Global Change Award the following year for its material and technology.
Neffa has also received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. The company is currently focused on brand partnerships in Europe.
MycoTEX is a mycelium composite material that combines properties of conventional leather and textiles. MycoTEX is not seen as a true substitute for animal leather, but rather as a new type of bio-textile. Its leather-like qualities could be enhanced, however, by growing it in a larger mold, on a different media, and using a stronger scaffolding. MycoTEX is grown on 3D molds to create custom-fit garments without the need for cutting or stitching, allowing for extreme personalization and reducing costs and waste associated with assembly.
Production process: Mycelial growth
MycoTEX is currently grown in petri dishes on lab-grade media with a hemp scaffold in a vat fermenter, then pressed onto 3D molds and dried to assume the desired shape and size. Advantages of this method of production include the ability to completely personalize the fit of the final product. No cutting is necessary and that allows for a clean look both inside and out. Mycelium grows fairly quickly (1-2 weeks) and allows for MycoTEX custom-fitted garments to be produced nearly on demand. MycoTEX can be dyed before being pressed into molds to allow for consistent colors. MycoTEX garments are intended to be worn a few times and then composted.
Neffa is moving away from using petri dishes (9 cm circles) for growth, but, like most companies, is facing scaling challenges. Additionally, Neffa needs to partner with a company to get consistent and more cost-effective media than lab-grade. They are considering partnership with a vegetable canning company or a beer brewery for their media and are also experimenting with different scaffolds.
MycoTEX is fully biodegradable, does not require harsh chemical processing, and is made with abundantly available and highly renewable inputs. MycoTEX has substantial environmental benefits over conventional leather as well as plant- and PVC-based leather alternatives.
MycoTEX is very likely to need a coating in order to be more durable and/or breathable. The company is testing various biodegradable coatings. If the company is able to produce a product with a biodegradable coating, the entire product will be compostable.
MycoTEX is more pliable than other plant- or PVC-based leathers, but is not resilient to abrasion. The mycelium comprising MycoTEX grows in unique patterns and textures that cannot be entirely controlled in the production process, which presents difficulties for standardization and mass production. By producing garments on a 3D mold, MycoTEX garments are seamless and can be entirely personalized. MycoTEX carries a distinctive, earthy odor that is unlike conventional leather and may be off-putting to some consumers. The products are not breathable, machine washable, or durable and may be more suitable for accessories, decoration, or elements of footwear.
Prototypes pictured never worn.
Images from Neffa.