Hermès-backed startup Mycoworks says it is ready to scale its mushroom leather alternative after proving its efficacy at scale via production runs for Hermès and securing new funding.
The San Francisco biotechnology firm has raised a $125 million Series C funding round led by Prime Movers Lab, alongside new investors SK Networks and Mirabaud Lifestyle Impact and Innovation Fund. The investment will be used to build its first full-scale manufacturing plant in South Carolina, giving it the capacity to produce several million square feet of its proprietary Fine Mycelium material, called Reishi, each year. A pilot plant in Emeryville, California last year produced over 10,000 trays of fine mycelium proving its possibility. One tray is equivalent to half an animal hide.
The new plant could make mushroom leather a more readily available option. However, there is competition and low consumer awareness to contend with. High profile sustainability leader Stella McCartney works exclusively with rival Bolt Thread’s mylo material; Ecovative has formed a fashion cooperative with Danish affordable fashion retailer Bestseller and Tommy Hilfiger parent company PVH to reach scale for a mass-market; and Gucci has developed its own vegan leather called Demetra, used in a capsule of Ace sneakers in June and available to the broader fashion industry from the beginning of this year.
For its first public brand collaboration, Mycoworks targeted high-end luxury, applying its customized Sylvania material to the Hermès Victoria bag in 2021, and bringing the brand’s former CEO Patrick Thomas onto its board of directors. CEO Matt Scullin declines to share names at this stage but says Mycoworks will be announcing a number of high-profile collaborations in the coming year across the price spectrum. “We are supply-constrained, which is a good position to be in,” Scullin says. “The scale we will be delivering is still just a drop in the bucket of the overall opportunity and demand from our brand partners.” The new plant is already fully contracted and will be fully operational by 2023. Scullin says the company has a “rough plan” to open one new plant per year to meet demand, both in the US and globally.
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