By the end of this year, you could be toting around a guilt-free, fashion-forward Hermès bag – that’s because the luxury French fashion house has paired with MycoWorks, a California-based biomaterials start-up, to develop a non-animal derived leather bag.
The key to this collaboration is mycelium, which in simple terms, are the fine threads of a mushroom root. In a different universe (aka. Star Trek), it can be used to travel through subspace. Back here in our time, MycoWorks has developed a patented process to transform these mycelium threads into a material, trademarked Reishi™, that looks and feels just like animal leather.
MycoWorks differentiates Reishi™ from vegan leather. Vegan leather is made by compressing layers of a base material, and then coating it with a water-resistant outer layer. In contrast, Reishi™ is grown. Moreover, it can be grown into any shape or form, and its qualities adjusted to meet different material criteria, such as changing flexibility, density, and strength. It can also be tanned, dyed, embossed and stitched.
Hermès will not be producing a brand new item with MycoWorks. Rather, it will unveil a new model of the “Victoria” travel bag, made using a new material called Sylvania, that will resemble its amber-hued calfskin. This new offering will undergo the same treatment as its other bag brethren: exquisite hand craftsmanship on-site in France, by Hermès-trained tanners and craftspeople.
This collaboration is Hermès response to growing consumer demand for sustainable fashion options. After all, the luxury icon has built its reputation on making products from the finest animal skins, and let’s not forget – it has recently purchased 376 acres of farmland in the Northern Territory of Australia to farm more than 50,000 saltwater crocodiles.
For a brand so obsessed with the best raw materials, this partnership makes a great deal of sense: MycoWorks shares Hermès fascination with durable, quality natural raw materials. It gives the fashion house the ability to cultivate a material that can be made to order. This could open up new design possibilities, and with it – one hopes – many more sustainable bags.
The Hermès MycoWorks bag will be available for purchase later this year.