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Why fashion and design are focusing on materiality

MycoWorks to join panel hosted by the Triennale Museum on sustainable design and material preservation with Balenciaga, and Museo Kartell, organized by ARCHIVIO Magazine and Promemoria Group.


While materials have always been a source of inspiration in the history of fashion and design, there has been a strong cultural shift in the creative world: materials today are the key solution to a sustainable vision. The panel, organized by
Promemoria Group publisher of Archivio magazine analyzes this turn towards materiality in today’s zeitgeist, including Matthew Scullin, CEO of MycoWorks, Gaspard de Massé, Director of Heritage at Balenciaga, Elisa Storace, curator of the Kartell Museum and Marco Sammicheli, Director of Museo del Design Italiano at La Triennale Milano, and Deputy editor of ARCHIVIO N°10. Introduced by Giacomo Golinelli, COO of Promemoria Group and moderated by Marco Pecorari, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Parsons Paris and former Deputy Editor of Archivio The Fashion Issue, the conversation will delve into the crucial challenges of the materials we use today, and the growing role biomaterials are expected to play as the culture transitions to deliberate and sustainable design. 

Leading the biomaterials category is MycoWorks, the first biotechnology company founded by artists, Phil Ross and Sophia Wang. Thirty years of artistic research has led to MycoWorks’ unique savoir-faire which persuades mycelium, the intricate ‘roots’ of reishi mushrooms, to intertwine as it grows. This artistic technology has the potential to be applied to fashion and design thanks to its remarkable textile richness and malleability, opening a new world where materials are crafted from nature. Dr. Matthew Scullin, a PHD in Material Science, joined MycoWorks as CEO in awe of their innovation, and developed the strategic partnership with the renowned maison Hermès to co-develop material. The partnership, grounded in Hermès’ patient commitment to quality, has redefined “research and development” as a search for beauty, quality and excellence in new materials. MycoWorks’ first material, Reishi™, is natural, precious, and unique; inviting a new creative expression with the legacy of nature’s craftsmanship.

While creatives restlessly await innovative materials and solutions as they scale up, Reishi™ by MycoWorks, unparalleled in its versatility and uniqueness, is a leading example of the material excellence that can be achieved when heritage and research come together. Rooted in art and nature, Reishi™ is uniquely placed today to become design’s greatest tool–and source of inspiration in sustainable design. 

The ninth issue of Archivio, guest-edited by former T Magazine fashion editor Stefano Tonchi in collaboration with Marco Pecorari, explored the major players in fashion research. Public institutions, brands, and private collectors are all currently investing in historical archives to preserve, restore, and innovate their heritage collections. An interview of Gaspard de Massé by Marco Pecorari in the Fashion Issue is the basis for this year’s Triennale panel, and a foray into the next issue on Design. In the interview, de Massé noted that Heritage Balenciaga came to value chemists and material scientists in 2011, when looking to restore pieces that had degraded in their archive due to flood. Balenciaga’s project has now grown into a partnership PHD for materials research, specifically on the topic of synthetic material preservation in heritage archives, a topic close to heart for both fashion and design. 

Elisa Storace of Kartell Museum and Marco Sammicheli of Triennale Milano are institutions that are similarly swept up in materials research. Boasting archives spanning from many eras of design likewise means having many kinds of materials to consider and care for as they age and wear. In the 20th century, plastics were once the most innovative material a creative could get their hands on, and spent many years as “the” material of the era. Today, tastes have changed yet again, embracing the natural world in research, design and materials. 

Marco Sammicheli, for his part, will talk about the work the Triennale museum is doing on materials research and how this research impacts exhibition projects. And like many companies, Kartell is looking to evolve and innovate ahead of the curve as the world hones in on sustainable and durable design, exploring biomaterials– materials produced or derived by nature, not plastics. 

While creatives restlessly await innovative materials and solutions as they scale up, Reishi™ by MycoWorks, unparalleled in its versatility and uniqueness, is a leading example of the material excellence that can be achieved when heritage and research come together. Rooted in art and nature, Reishi™ is uniquely placed today to become design’s greatest tool–and source of inspiration in sustainable design. 

Archivio Fashion meets Archivio Design: materials preservation, innovation and sustainability” will be held at La Triennale di Milano at 11.30am on April 17, 2024.