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Fungi Fashion

Stella McCartney is highlighting the sustainable power of mushrooms as textiles.

Fashion designer Stella McCartney

Mushrooms are having a moment. They have sprung up as therapeutics via the micro-dosing craze, entered our morning smoothies in the form of supercharging adaptogenic powders, and appeared as foraged delicacies on five-star menus. Now, mushrooms, and their root system, mycelium, are entering our homes and closets by way of the materials and motifs of fashion’s Stella McCartney.

McCartney brought her specific brand of conscious collaboration to this year’s Salone del Mobile furniture fair in Milan with ‘Future of fashion: an innovation conversation with Stella McCartney’ introducing her first interiors partnerships. Stationed amid the 200-year-old Porta Nuova, the entrance of which was flanked by a pair of oversized Alice in Wonderland-worthy mushroom sculpture gardens, McCartney’s presentation made her message life-sized — fungi are in fashion.

The spirit of this year’s Salone was very much evolution through sustainability. McCartney’s offering was right on target. The exuberant lightness of her recently debuted Summer 2022 ready-to-wear collection, which consisted of trippy t-shirts and psychedelic prints mixed with cut-outs, crystals and plissé, was translated into a funhouse of mind-bending and thought-provoking installations. A whimsical world emerged as mimosa-sipping guests explored a warren of rooms and alcoves set over two storeys, including a silver infinity space stuffed with neon mushrooms, recycled, of course, from previous shop-window displays.

The Frayme Mylo bag: a luxury-level handbag crafted from mycelium

One ready-to-wear pattern in particular, the Fungi Forest print, provided the basis for both of her interiors partnerships. With B&B Italia, McCartney used the print to cover the recently reissued Le Bambole. Designed by Mario Bellini, the armchair is having its half-century anniversary. Not only has the chair received an updated silhouette for the occasion, but its structural insides have also had a sustainable makeover by swapping out metal for conscious choices such as thermoplastic elastomers and recycled PET. A new construction method allows the unit to be disassembled and subsequently recycled. Softness and what can only be described as enveloping ‘sink-ability’ have been given the otherworldly treatment with McCartney’s mushroom print. The armchair marks the first-ever fashion collaboration for the Italian furniture firm. McCartney has long been an admirer of Bellini’s work, and the two share a connection in their shared aim of creating more ecological products.

Perhaps the hand-drawn artwork of Fungi Forest could extend elsewhere — or everywhere — in a room. McCartney’s Fungi Forest wallpaper, produced with Cole & Son, made that idea a reality. This sustainable wallpaper is offered in vibrant burgundy and navy colourways, and created using a method that preserves the print’s crisp lines. The wallpaper’s materials include 79 percent renewable fibres and its manufacturing process uses 30 percent fewer greenhouse gases than traditional non-woven wallcoverings. 

McCartney took the opportunity of Salone to feature advancements in her accessories offering, in addition to the interiors collaborations. In the 20 years since founding her eponymous brand, McCartney has been consistent in her nature-positive ethics. Her line has always abstained from animal products, namely fur and leather. However, faux leather poses its own set of sustainability challenges and those issues may soon be solved by Mylo. On display was the Frayme Mylo bag: a luxury-level handbag crafted from mycelium.

Frayme is one of McCartney’s star accessories, and currently features faux leather and a recyclable aluminum chain. In partnership with Bold Threads, which McCartney has been working with since 2017, she employed this material to fabricate a bag that is designed to be indistinguishable from leather or even faux leather. Mylo is created in a lab environment using air, water and mulch. Mimicking a process that happens throughout forest floors naturally, regenerative mycelium is made using 100 percent renewable energy. It took Bolt Threads about 5,000 interactions to perfect Mylo and, as the purse prototypes on hand confirmed, this bio-based leather alternative, looks and feels exactly like leather. A limited quantity of the Frayme Mylo will be available for purchase on the designer’s website from July 2022.