A mushroom sneaker that looks like it came out of a pizzeria menu, but obviously it hasn’t. Jokes aside, Mylo seems to have a very promising future. Of course, the journey to create an industrialised civilisation that sustainably inhabits the planet is only just beginning. But the feeling is that the best way to work for nature is to work with it. This way of thinking has prompted adidas to imagine products made with materials developed from natural ingredients, or with cells and proteins in the lab, so that they can eventually return to nature – eliminating the use of limited resources, based on fossil fuels, which impoverish the planet.
If a company like adidas ‘cultivates’ the ambition to create products at mass scale, one of the key elements to using natural materials in the development process is to ensure an adequate supply.
At the same time, the material needs to be comfortable, durable and perform as well as – if not better than – ‘traditional’ materials, such as animal and synthetic leathers.
A possible solution was found in mycelium: a sprawling and renewable interlaced web that threads through soil, of which mushrooms are the fruit. Imagine the branches and vines that grow apples or grapes – mycelium functions like those twisting and branching supports, but under the ground.
The innovative Mylo material is made from mycelium and is created using a highly effective growing process, which allows the material to grow in less than two weeks. The process takes advantage of a cutting-edge vertical cultivation technique, which allows it to be grown in a controlled lab environment which increases its yield per square foot.
Adidas is betting big on this material, especially given its aim to make all its sneakers without any plastic by 2024. "The introduction of Mylo as a new material is a major step forward in our bold ambition”, said Amy Jones Vaterlaus, Global Head of Future di adidas. "As a planet, we must learn to work with nature rather than against it and put all our efforts into finding innovative solutions that are created responsibly with resources that renew at a sustainable pace. Designed in synergy with the earth’s ecosystems.”
The innovative project was made possible through a collaborative partnership with Bolt Threads, a biotechnology company committed to creating the next generation of advanced materials.
And mycelium isn’t just an idea on the mind of adidas. It’s in the plans of many other brands. Stella McCartney announced that she will use Mylo in her future collections and the Kering Group wants to use it for its numerous brands. Even Hermès, among others, is thinking about the world of mushrooms, as it has decided to use Sylvania mushroom leather, developed by MycoWorks, to make its cult “Victoria” handbag.
Does the future of fashion pass through the undergrowth? We shall see with great curiosity and interest. It seems to be the right path.
Stan Smith in Mylo
To the look and the touch & feel, mycelium resembles leather. It can be dyed any colour, it can take on any finish or emboss. The Stan Smith prototype has kept its classic silhouette, whose upper, three stripes, tongue and logo are all made of Mylo, while the sole is made of natural rubber.