A New Infection

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Tell the cows to move over.

The market for sustainability is ever-growing and evergreen. This stretches from technology to fashion. In a combination of the two industries, a relatively new fiber has caught the attention of many who champion all things eco-friendly.

Biofabricated fabrics that replace animal by-products can definitely take over the market if scaled properly and in a cost-effective manner. The latter is extremely important because the cost of research and development for these fibers is monumental.

Leather is one material that can be replaced from an unlikely source: mushrooms. Companies are not just looking to make alternatives to leather, replacements for spider silk and wool have also been in development. Bolt Threads is a company that has created an alternative to spider silk and has now ventured into the arena of leather alternatives.

They are not alone, other companies have started to look into mushroom-based leather alternatives. However, one must wonder what will become of the leather industry. With a push from customers and activists to develop and design products that are environmentally conscious, established companies and startups are seeking to capitalize on sustainable products.

Leather will definitely not disappear from the market — there are many luxury and mid-tier brands that produce quality work for their niche market, but we might see a decline. This, of course, will not be immediate. The cost for research and development of these mushroom-based leathers is not low, so the final cost and sale price will determine how well the market takes to them.

How will this affect the Caribbean? While the region isn’t known for high-end leather goods, tourist-heavy areas can be seen stocked with an assortment of handcrafted leather goods from belts to keyrings. The more environmentally conscious traveler might not take too well to animal-based products.

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With PU leather and cheap plastic alternatives to leather on the market, these new organic alternatives have one main competitive edge: durability. Animal-based leathers are revered for their breathability and ability to withstand time, something cheaper PU alternatives have not been able to deliver. However, the introduction of mushroom-based leather gives the consumer the option to choose an organic material that is durable and biodegradable.

While leather is an organic fiber, there is an issue surrounding the process of producing leather. The issue starts with cattle rearing and extends to the harmful chemicals used in treating the leather. These issues are non-existent with their mushroom-based counterpart.

These much-anticipated alternatives aren’t just for the gimmick of having unconventional materials. This new step towards innovation secures future where fashion and technology go hand-in-hand. The growing market for eco-friendly replacements can be met if companies continue to create around a common goal: a greener, brighter future.