After four years of development and around eight iterations, Stella McCartney is about to launch an initial small run of 100 Frayme handbags using a mycelium-based leather alternative, MYLO.

Mycelium, the mushroom-based fabric, is being touted as the front-runner in the contest to find a less environmentally damaging alternative to leather. Unlike other next-generation alternatives, mycelium has a manufacturing process that is relatively easy to scale and requires little energy. This has piqued the interest of a number of brands who are joining forces with material science start-ups and manufactures to make mycelium products a reality.

In the case of Stella McCartney, the brand has joined forces with material solutions company, Bolt Threads, Inc., and has been working closely with them over the past few years to make their mycelium leather market-ready and to address initial issues around brittleness, inconsistency and stickiness. The team recognises that for consumers to get on board with the new fabric, it needs to be as close to real leather as possible.

Though it looks as though initially mycelium will stay a luxury material used at the premium end of the market, if more brands get on board the hope is that the production of this next-generation alternative can be scaled-up and made more affordable.

It is great to see fashion brands like Stella McCartney recognising the importance of finding alternatives to leather and working closely with material science start-ups to make these alternatives work for the fashion industry.

With my trade mark attorney hat on, it is also encouraging to see that these tech start-ups are recognising the value of their IP and are taking steps to ensure this is well-protected. As well as Stella McCartney, Bolt Threads' MYLO mycelium-based leather has already been used in initial runs of products for lululemon, adidas and GANNI and is clearly gaining a following, and so it is good to see that they have registered this trade mark in key territories around the world, including in the UK, EU, US, CA and parts of Asia.

It’s a critical moment for a next-generation material that has attracted hundreds of millions of dollars of investment from brands and venture funds betting that growing consumer demand for vegan and less environmentally damaging products is set to disrupt the market for some of fashion’s highest-margin and valuable products.

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