The $200,000 Hermès bag is made of mushrooms. Would you still buy it?

Leather has always been considered a representative of high-end materials. Its special color, tough quality and scarcity have made it popular in the fashion industry. A large number of Hermès handbags are made of leather.

Even when it cross-border cooperation, it mostly chooses leather. Apple and Hermès launched a customized Apple Watch that also uses a leather strap, which has a high quality.

Recently, Hermès has launched a leather handbag. In the past, most of this Birkin handbags could be auctioned at a price of nearly 200,000 US dollars, but this new product is somewhat special.

It is made of mushrooms.

Hermes bag made with mushrooms

The handbag mentioned above is a new product jointly produced by Hermès and the biomaterial company MycoWorks recently. Compared with the previous products, its special feature is that the raw material is a plant cultivation material Sylvania, and it is made of mushroom mycelium.

According to common sense, mushrooms are generally soft, and it is almost impossible to achieve the same toughness as cowhide. However, biomaterials companies have found that mushrooms naturally form a network structure during growth, which makes it It can be filled into any desired shape.

After a unique fermentation process, the mycelium can grow freely in the tray, and after similar compression adjustments, its texture becomes uniform and tough.

MycoWorks claims to have cooperated with Hermès three years ago to develop a new vegetable leather material, which makes raw materials, while Hermès tanned and adjusted this vegetable leather material called Sylvania in a French tannery.

If you don’t emphasize it, ordinary people can hardly see that this small leather handbag is made of mushroom mycelium. In terms of appearance, whether it is wrinkles or gradual color, it looks the same as real leather. The spokesperson of MycoWorks also specially emphasized :

It conforms to all standard tests for leather, including tensile strength, abrasion resistance, color fastness, etc., and even exceeds the requirements of standard tests in some indicators.

Judging from Hermès’ public speeches, this is not a test of water. The plant leather material Sylvania will be increasingly used in its leather travel bag category, and corresponding products will be launched this year.

In fact, this is not the first time that vegetable leather materials have been used in fashion apparel products. The Mexican company Desserto has developed a vegetable leather using the local cacti. Desserto said that because cacti have low environmental requirements, only 200 liters of water are needed to grow one kilogram of cacti, which is much lower than other plants.

▲ Leather bag made of cactus

In addition, Desserto only picks mature cactus leaves and does not cause damage to the cactus plants themselves, so they can be harvested every 6-8 months to achieve continuous regeneration. There are other vegetable leathers made of pineapple, vegetable oil, rice husk, and other materials. However, compared with the mushroom mycelium used by MycoWorks, it has an advantage in that it has a small footprint and can be cultivated indoors.

As for the product price, vegetable leather is not low. According to Forbes , Bolt Threads, which launched vegetable leather products earlier, has been selling small handbags ranging from US$400 to US$500, which is not cheap. Hermès uses vegetable leather Sylvania. The leather bags made will also be on sale at the end of the year. As one of the well-known luxury brands, the price will certainly not be low.

Although it can be mass-produced, the advantage of vegetable leather is not in price, but in reducing damage to the environment. This is also a selling point that many biomaterials companies and fashion brands such as Hermes have been emphasizing to the public.

The next fashion trend, is vegetable leather?

If Bolt Threads was only an active attempt to create a new brand when it released vegetable leather handbags in 2018, then 2021 will be the year when the fashion industry uses vegetable leather. The addition of fashion brand Hermès makes vegetable leather more and more material. fire.

In addition, Kering Group, the parent company of Lululemon, Gucci and Stella McCartney, also announced that it will increase its investment in vegetable leather and speed up the launch of corresponding products.

▲Stella McCartney and Bolt Threads jointly launched plant leather clothing

Plant leather can gain the favor of fashion brands and is closely related to the development of technology. Bolt Threads technology is becoming more and more mature, and Kering Group and Bolt Threads have also formed a business alliance. Kering Group provides no less than 7-figure funds to help Bolt Threads accelerate the development of the production industry chain.

Compared with traditional animal leather, vegetable leather has obvious advantages in the cultivation cycle. Whether it is cows or crocodiles and other common animal leathers in the fashion industry, the cultivation cycle is calculated on an annual basis, which takes more time, which is also certain. To a certain extent, the scarcity of leather products has been enhanced.

The production cycle of plants will be shorter. The cactus mentioned above is 6-8 months, and Bolt Threads, a vegetable leather brand made of mushroom mycelium, can even be cultivated within "weeks" and quickly enter production.

▲ Bolt Threads claims that the material can grow in mycelial cells within two weeks

On the other hand, the use of animal leather has also been questioned by some consumers. Last year, Hermès was boycotted by animal welfare organizations because it planned to build a farm in Australia that can accommodate 50,000 crocodiles, although the local government finally approved the project. .

More environmentally friendly products are more attractive to some consumers. Nielsen, a market research organization, once issued a report stating that 2/3 of the global consumers (including 73% of the post-80s and post-90s) expressed their willingness to be sustainable Brands pay more.

This is also the point that biomaterial companies have always emphasized. The carbon emissions of vegetable leather are lower than that of animal breeding. Most of the materials are taken from nature. When consumers vote with real gold and white shadows, fashion companies such as Hermes will naturally go. Try new materials, and plants like cacti, mushrooms, etc., even if they need to be expanded, are good for protecting the environment.

Moreover, due to the restrictions of local national laws and the influence of consumer public opinion, fashion companies such as Gucci have emphasized the efforts of their brands and related industrial chains to achieve carbon neutrality, and expressed the need to use more sustainable materials. One of the most important events in the fashion industry, London Fashion Week also began to try to implement fur-free activities in 2018. The entire fashion venue will not use products containing animal fur.

The advantages of plant leather in terms of production cycle and environmental protection have prompted fashion companies to choose it. It is foreseeable that companies including Lululemon and Gucci will mass produce fashion products containing plant leather this year.

And their continuous production will also drive the development of the industrial chain, which is conducive to lowering the price of vegetable leather products. Bolt Threads also stated that the alliance with Kering Group will help them mass production, which in turn will drive the reduction of vegetable leather products. To the same price range as animal leather products.

In addition to the trend, vegetable leather needs to solve many problems

From the perspective of consumers, vegetable leather is indeed a good alternative material. However, due to the relatively small number of products sold at this stage, it is impossible to make a comprehensive evaluation of the quality of such products. After the corresponding products are sold in large quantities this year , In order to obtain an intuitive assessment.

The production speed and scope of vegetable leather can be accelerated by capital injection from fashion brands on the basis of existing technology, but the faster production cycle than animal leather also poses a new problem for luxury goods industries such as Hermes.

An important feature of luxury goods is scarcity. Previously, whether it was crocodile leather or calf leather, it was necessary to breed animals for several years, and the appearance did not necessarily meet the standards. This resulted in a limited number of leather handbags that can be sold every year. , And then form scarcity, prompting people to pay higher value for it.

But when it comes to vegetable leather, quantifiable and mass production are its important characteristics. After losing its scarcity, luxury brands such as Hermes also need to think about how to improve the product experience. Only relying on environmentally friendly materials cannot guarantee the value of the product. Wait for the freshness to pass. , Whether people will still pay for vegetable leather is a question mark.

In addition, as an emerging material, it is still unknown how environmentally friendly plant leather is. After all, environmental protection cannot be achieved by a certain measure of a company or by changing a plant leather material. It requires the participation of the entire industrial chain.

Artificial leather also accounts for a large proportion of leather products. Most of them directly refine petroleum products to produce polyurethane or PVC. This production process also releases a large amount of carbon and takes decades. It can be decomposed naturally. Vegetable leather is also artificial leather, and there is no clear data comparison for the gap between the two.

Bolt Threads, which is quite influential in the vegetable leather industry, also said that there is no complete data reference for the time being, how much carbon is emitted by vegetable leather and how much resources are consumed during the complete production cycle.

After all, there is a precedent before. The so-called biodegradable plastic bag has not been degraded after being buried in the ground for three years. On the contrary, it can continue to be used, and it can even be loaded with 2.3 kg of debris.

I am afraid that everything can only be seen when Bolt Threads completes an independent life cycle analysis of vegetable leather in 2021. If vegetable leather can significantly reduce carbon emissions at that time, then it will not be far from the day when it will become popular.

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