Composite and pure flexible mycelium materials samples.
Reishi mushroom pure mycelium leather.
Mycelium growing on a mix of denim textile waste and spent coffee grounds.
Mycelium growing on denim textile waste.
The Purhyphae Project
The fashion industry produces over 100 billion garments per year, of which 60% are plastic based and 85% will end up in a dump before the end of the year. Considering that various micro and macro-organisms, such as fungi and more specifically their mycelium, are capable of biodegrading the main components of textile (cellulose and more complex plastic molecules) an opportunity to rethink the linearity of the textile industry emerges. Beyond breaking down the waste products, the mycelium hyphae network can produce mycelium-based materials, including leather-like materials, adoptable in the fashion industry.
This project investigates ways to biodegrade various combinations of denim textile waste, synthetic textile waste, food waste and spent coffee grounds. The mycelium used was from the Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster) fungi. The results show that P. ostreatus (oyster) mycelium grows on all the combinations of food waste (vegetable peels and coffee grounds) with textile waste (synthetic textile and denim textile), and even grows on denim textile waste only. However, the mycelium did not entirely degrade the fibers but only partially digested it, leading to a leather-like composite made of the mycelium and remainder of its substrate. Provided the soft nature of the substrate, the textile waste and food waste mycelium composite is also malleable, and therefore interesting for further textile applications.
A protocol for post processing of the flexible composite material using low energy and natural components (heat, water, glycerol, and beeswax) was created to make a composite flexible fungal material. The whole process thus enables a circular way of treating textiles by closing the loop of the current linear model.
Mycelium, mycelium leather, mycelium materials, bioremediation, biodegradation, circular fashion, textile waste, food waste, fungi, solid state fermentation, liquid state fermentation, fungal fermentation
Waste is a free, ubiquitous, abundant and free element, so why not use it as a raw material? This project focuses on the use of waste only as raw material for the growth of fungus (substrate) and this can be locally sourced everywhere.
This project is entierely open source and the research process and conclusions are entierely documented on my website, empowering other designers to experiment more with mycelium leather (rather than animal or plastic leather). One of the goal of the project is also knowledge diffusion and since going through all my written research can be compex, I also made some simple yet detailled video tutorials on how to produce this leather at home, that can be upscaled to the desired size of fabric. By spreading the knowledge globally with clear tutorials, the project is empowering people to adapt this solution to this common problem at every level locally all around the world.
The entire design process originates from the problem of the accumulation of textile waste from the fashion industry in nature and the lack of ways to upcycle the textile waste, making clothing a very linear product. This project finds another use of the textile waste by upcycling it, offering the possibility to make textile's life cycles... circular. The use of biological tools for the biodegradation of the textile waste makes this project not only belong to sustainable design but to the domain remediative and regenerative design. The entire process only uses waste as substrates for the growth, natural ingredients for post-processing and low energy for the production, limiting the energy used and the amount of additional waste produced during the recycling process.