Kristel Cojak

Proposal Mycelium as 'future leather' in Shoe design.

Does mycelium has the potential to function as leather within the fashion world for present and near future?

Why is it so important to us?
Leather is a natural material with unique properties that make it the preferred choice for crafting thousands of products in addition to traditional applications in shoes, garments and luggage.
The main difference between leather and synthetic materials is that leather can "breathe" and shape itself over time to the wearer. High-quality leather also offers the ability to absorb moisture without feeling wet. For example, the human foot produces between three and five centiliters of sweat every day.  Forty percent of the sweat will disappear, while the remaining moisture should be absorbed by the shoe so the foot doesn’t feel wet.  Leather is the best material for this purpose.
Leather also resists a nearly infinite amount of bending and delivers excellent elasticity.  This is an important comfort factor for the top part, or “upper” of a shoe since the foot swells during the day.
Leather is also associated to environmental problems as pollution due to the high consumption of water during the tanning process. And as leather is a by-product of the meat industry, we should also take into account the impact of this industry. Which leads us to the conclusion that the future of leather can not be described as sustainable due to this high impact.
Sustainable solutions for new materials are mostly explored on the border of science. Mycelium has already some of the qualities which are comparable with leather: water repellent, water absorbing, elasticity and rigidity.
Now, we want to investigate if Mycelium can achieve the same (as close by) combination of qualities as leather regarding the absorption and the ‘self shaping’.

How do we get there?
1) by cultivating mycelium with the focus on elasticity on one side and the water absorption on other side in one material
2) by immediate application of the cultivated material both in a 2D approach (as for in patterns) as in a 3D approach (directly on the "last" = the base) to create AND to grow a complete shoe.

What is our goal?
To achieve a new natural material from minimal renewable (or waste) resources which can be implemented into sustainable Shoe design and future Fashion. The output will also be a translated as a part within a larger research "Rethinking High Fashion Shoes' for KASK HoGent, Belgium by Kristel Peters.