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Mushroom ‘Leather’ Realistic Enough for Hermès, Natalie Portman, John Legend, and GM

Mushroom ‘leather’ realistic enough for $4,200 Hermès handbags has raised over $187 million from investors like Natalie Portman, John Legend, and GM

Phil Ross had no plans to create a new clothing material when he dove deep into the world of mushrooms, but now the fungi-based ‘leather’ he helped pioneer can be found in Hermès’s luxury handbags and could soon coat the interior of GM’s electric cars.

“Growing the future has only just started. This industry will continue to surprise people,” says Ross.

Today, MycoWorks has raised over $187 million in venture funding—from investors that include Natalie Portman and John Legend—and has broken ground on a South Carolina factory to annually produce several million square feet of its Reishi Fine Mycelium leather-like material. It counts Hermès as a high fashion client, and in October announced an unspecified investment from General Motors’ funding arm, GM Ventures, to produce “sustainable automotive materials,” including for car upholstery. MycoWorks declined to provide the company’s valuation or revenues. It has about 200 employees.

“Brands are making very significant changes to address what is really a growing demographic of people who want to buy sustainable products that have provenance and traceability and a lower carbon footprint, lower water use—and mycelium does all of those things,” says Matt Scullin, the materials science Ph.D. who joined as CEO in 2017.

“What the industry wants is a material that allows them to tap into this growing market of consumers who demand sustainable materials and demand better materials. They’re not looking for a leather replacement,” he says. Rather, with its warm, “alive” texture, mycelium leathers will be an easy choice to replace the “polyurethane leathers” that account for over half of the leather market.

Read the full article on FORTUNE.