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Financial Times

Sustainable materials are a vision of fashion’s future

This spring, Hermès, maker of the Birkin bag, caused a stir when it announced that a new edition of its classic Victoria travel bag, launched in 1997 and typically crafted from calfskin and lined in canvas, would be reissued primarily in lab-grown mycelium. This material, developed by the California start-up MycoWorks, is made by combining agricultural waste and mycelium to form a sheet that can be tanned just like real leather; Hermès plans to do the tanning at its own facilities in France. (The bag is not Hermès’s answer to the increasing demand for vegan footwear and accessories — this new version still incorporates calfskin.)

Mycelium can be grown in weeks, not years, and Matthew Scullin, chief executive of MycoWorks, says the attraction for brands is as much about speed and scalability as environmental footprint. “Leather is a 19th-century material in a 21st-century economy,” he says. “It’s a very fixed thing that doesn’t scale easily, especially the real high-quality leathers that are primarily sold to the luxury industry

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