Bolt Threads shot to fame in the fashion world with its innovative alt leather product Mylo, the “unleather” gloriously made from mycelium fungal structures, and recently received a prestigious vegan certification.
“We at Bolt Threads are proud to be leading the movement to create these necessary alternatives to traditional materials using advanced science and bio-based solutions.”
Following a recently formed consortium of iconic companies including Adidas, Kering, Lululemon, and Stella McCartney, Mylo mushroom unleather continues to hit the shelves and catwalks globally with many more to be announced soon.
As Bolt Threads looks to expand and scale the reach of Mylo, the company has announced a new collaboration with fashion house Ganni to create Mylo-based products as part of a 2022 collection, with Ganni committing to end the use of virgin leather in footwear and accessories by 2023.
With Bolt Threads and Mylo going from strength to strength, vegconomist was delighted to finally speak with Bolt Threads CEO Dan Widmaier.
What is Bolt Threads and what do you make?
Bolt Threads is a material solutions company based out of Emeryville, California. We are a team of scientists and engineers working to design more sustainable versions of the materials people already know and love. Our mission is to create way better materials for a way better world, and one of the ways we have brought this idea to life is through creating Mylo™, a mycelium-based alternative to animal and synthetic leathers.
“Our mission is to create way better materials for a way better world”
Your Mylo mushroom leather has been generating a lot of excitement in the industry, why do people love it and how is it made?
The industry is seeing a heavy shift in the attitude toward biomaterials and it is a trend that is here to stay. We are starting to see more science-based partnerships come to fruition, with big brands investing heavily in creating more environmentally conscious fashion practices.
Today’s consumer cares about sustainability and ethical purchasing, and they are demanding the brands they shop make choices that align with not only their aesthetics, but also with their values.
Mylo is a material made from mycelium that looks and feels like leather. When you hold a piece of Mylo material in your hand, it is substantial, warm, supple and soft – just like traditional, animal-derived leather. It has the aesthetics and performance to create unique, covetable offerings without any of the animals required for traditional leather.
“This process takes less than two weeks vs the years it can take to raise livestock.”
To make our Mylo material, we start by reproducing what happens on the forest floor in a controlled indoor environment. We take mycelial cells and feed them sawdust and organic material, then place all of that in a tray while controlling the humidity and temperature among other variables. This process takes less than two weeks vs the years it can take to raise livestock. The mycelium used for Mylo is grown in indoor vertical farming facilities that are 100% powered by renewable energy.
Once the mycelium is harvested, the remaining material is composted. We then process and finish that sheet of mycelium using Green Chemistry.
You have partnered with global fashion brands like Adidas and Stella McCartney; which has been the most impactful collaboration for the company so far, and why?
The Mylo Consortium is a unique and collaborative partnership with four iconic companies: adidas, Kering, lululemon, and Stella McCartney. We have been honored to work with all these strong partners and selected them because of their exceptional product quality, impactful global reach, and proven commitments to innovation and sustainability.
“Stella has been instrumental in bringing Mylo to life”
Each partner has been impactful in its own way. We are fortunate to have collaborated often with Stella over many years, including her Gold dress in the MoMA and adidas by Stella McCartney tennis dress both made from our Microsilk, and the recent debut of her gorgeous garments, a bustier top and utilitarian trousers as well as the Frayme Mylo bag that was the first-ever Mylo product to appear on the runway. Stella has been instrumental in bringing Mylo to life, providing critical feedback at many points along the journey to help evolve it into the high-quality material it is today.
The adidas Stan Smith Mylo is a physical embodiment of adidas’s pledge to find innovative answers to the question of how to make our future more sustainable. We are thrilled the team chose to design Mylo into their iconic Stan Smith silhouette, an intentional decision made to scale the rollout of Mylo faster, make the innovation accessible to more people, and create a more immediate and significant impact on the environment. This acceleration of Mylo into mainstream streetwear/retail products, with a commercial launch pending, will offer consumers more sustainable options in design aesthetics they know and love.
Lululemon’s designers thoughtfully featured Mylo in a yoga collection, focusing on woven handles and braided pulls to serve a functional and experiential purpose. The brand also revealed a woven concept yoga mat, using the material in an entirely new way, experimenting with varying patterns and woven design details to complement the placement of hands and feet during a yoga practice. This collaboration was significant as it demonstrated the exciting versatility and possibilities of the Mylo material.
What benefits do your materials offer to manufacturers?
Mylo has the aesthetics and performance required by top brands to create unique, covetable offerings without any of the animals required for traditional leather. Our goal is to give consumers and manufacturers a choice for an animal-free alternative to traditional leather that doesn’t sacrifice quality.
How do your materials compare to their conventional counterparts in terms of price and scalability?
Getting our material into the hands of more consumers is a top goal for Mylo and we are working to increase scale and supply so we can collaborate with additional designers and eventually meet price parity with traditional leather and other leather alternatives.
We are developing a new, world-class supply chain to make Mylo at a commercial scale, increase supply and collaborate with even more brands and designers in the future.
What innovations do you currently have in the product pipeline?
Currently, we are focused on working with our consortium partners to bring their Mylo products to consumers. Since our founding, the plan for our Mylo material has been to scale millions of square feet of production at a cost and quality that is competitive with other materials today. We are hard at work building that supply chain up so every designer and consumer that wants access to Mylo will get it.
What would you say to manufacturers still using conventional leather and animal skins, despite the facts around their effect on the environment and animal cruelty?
As our world population grows by over 80 million every year, we face an ever-growing constraint on natural resources. What worked for one billion people will not work for 10 billion on this planet.
This increased demand for leather goods cannot be met using the land and water it takes to raise cattle. We need smarter, more sustainable alternatives. We at Bolt Threads are proud to be leading the movement to create these necessary alternatives to traditional materials using advanced science and bio-based solutions.