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Mushroom Leather May Be Most Viable Vegan Alternative to Cowhide

Mycelial leather has all of the versatility of animal hide without any of the baggage.

A $2,950 “unleather” Frayme bag from Stella McCartney.

A $2,950 “unleather” Frayme bag from Stella McCartney.

Source: Stella McCartney

Everyone wants a piece of the mock-leather market, which was valued at $33.7 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 8% until 2030, according to Grand View Research. Most of that is plastic “pleather,” though vegetal alternatives now include cowhide-mimicking materials made from things such as cactus and apple peels.

But fungi are proving to be the most interesting and potentially viable alternative because of mycelium, mushrooms’ filamentlike root network that, in nature, spreads beneath the forest floor and under the bark of trees.