The idea of producing a leather backpack without using leather took some time to materialize in our minds. It is not always straightforward to break the boundaries of ordinary thinking, but when that happens a huge potential can be unleashed. When the Team of researchers, scientists and developers from Mogu and the designers from Officina Corpuscoli got in contact for the first time, a creative momentum was generated. Starting from initial observations and mutual feedbacks, the details of a vision came finally together, forming the idea of using mycelium to create an innovative alternative to animal leather.
The birth of the project
As soon as the idea materialized in our minds, its potential was clear. Indeed, mycelium leather represents an unprecedented material in terms of sustainability and ethics and can push the creativity of brands to novel levels. Mycelium leather is produced utilizing residues of other industries as input nutrients, with no toxic chemicals and no animals involved. Bringing such innovation to the market is and will be an inspiring challenge and a continued commitment we intend to pursue.
The creative process
The idea of developing an alternative to traditional animal leather by means of fungal fermentation initially emerged as part of the experimental design-research work performed by Officina Corpuscoli and got later brought in Mogu to encourage and perform overall development activities, leading to standardisation of the related processes and of the deriving products. Withing the WORTH partnership project, the teams from Officina Corpuscoli and Mogu started defining together methodologies and steps for continued advancement of the biofabrication-driven processes, finalised to improve the technical qualities and the overall specifications of the resulting mycelium leather. Hence, allowing to make the material suitable for prototyping and for overall manufacturing purposes. Working on a feedback-loop basis, the early materials’ samples were handled and tested to verify feasibility in regard to mechanical processing (e.g. stitching, embossing, thermo-bonding, etc.) and in order to validate their mechanical behaviour (tensile strength, tear strength, abrasion resistance, etc.). The related evaluations resulted in multiple targeted iterations, allowing the partners to identify specific protocols suitable for the purpose of manufacturing a mycelium leather carryon item. Such prototyping activities proved essential to thoroughly understand the materials’ response along processing and to tackle any emergent limitation, while gaining insights into unexpected opportunities. According to such understanding, the design of the backpack was then established. We started by prototyping it in paper to comprehend more about construction and related needs, for then moving on to a textile prototype, followed by a fully finalised and refined version of the construction and of the cut, to be executed with mycelium leather. Working with the mycelium material for producing the backpack also encouraged the project team to gather more accurate information in relation to traditional leathercraft, as well as to all associated tools, methods and techniques. Such additional insights and improved expertise contributed to a more effective and professionalised execution of the finished prototype, as highly promising outcome deriving from the WORTH partnership.
This was not the first time in which Mogu and Officina Corpuscoli teamed up, but possibly it could be considered one of the most challenging ones, due to the specific type of challenge. The mix of different backgrounds and visions provides unexpected potentials and capabilities in relation to problem solving, opening novel paths of creation. The synergy between the teams allowed to reach consistent improvements on multiple levels while achieving fundamental milestones, on the path towards a market-ready solution.
The future of Mycelium leather is exciting. We are constantly evaluating and launching novel collaborations, while an increasing number of brands are showing concrete interest by recognizing the potential of the material. As soon as the actual standards required from the market will be fully achieved, we forecast Mycelium leather leading an unprecedented disruption in the market. In that case, we will upscale our production capacity, but of course as in any entrepreneurial activity characterised by a high level of innovation and the associated risks, there is the chance that we will still not be capable of satisfying the market demand.
Technology is reaching unbelievable goals even just few years ago, but still many societal challenges have to be solved. It is only from the combination of different knowledge and approaches that complex problems can be solved. When conventional thinking is disrupted by changing the perspectives and mixing the expertise it is possible to bring radical innovation into everyday life.