Tanners need to open minds to wider thinking

Redwood Comment
Published:  04 December, 2019
Dr Mike Redwood

The move by Heller Leather to link with Bolt Threads, the owner of MYLO, will come as a shock to many passionate tanners who hate the marketing approach of the new materials being presented as replacements for leather. 

Yet, those who have attended the Shanghai Shake-up events at each of the last two All China Leather Exhibitions will hopefully have gathered the message that the unfolding 21st century requires tanners to think more widely about their technologies and capabilities as they examine their place in a changing world. The idea was to stop tanners considering all competitive material as enemies without value and to think where their own skills might be usefully deployed in adjacent areas, either related to hides and skins or closer to the customer end with hybrid or compatible materials.

The essential take away at both events was that we failed in our objective, but did provide some stimulating and useful content. So it is stimulating to see Heller Leather taking such a bold position and talking about it so clearly and openly.

It is the process of photosynthesis - that methane producing livestock are an essential part of (and were doing so quite happily until the industrial revolution came along and changed the volume and nature of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to disastrous effects) - that allows the mycelium of mushrooms to be such a clever little fungus. Effectively, the sunlight energises plants, and fungi like mycelium, to create and build cells with great precision. It is how we get our fruits and berries.

So the concept is to use this mushroom fungus to build a covering material to serve alongside leather, textiles and a variety of non-wovens. Hopefully it can play its part in knocking out of the big volume of plastics that call themselves “synthetic leather”. It offers an interesting journey for Heller and hopefully their involvement will end any inclination to market the material by the illegal and foolish sounding name of “mushroom leather”.

While, as Heller says in its press release, it should provide a good material to serve the legitimate needs of those who do not want to use animal products, Mylo appears to offer an intriguing structure that might create some useful features and benefits. Given the marriage of tanner and innovator, it might offer some powerful hybrids. There is lots of space in leather’s fibrous network to grow performance enhancing structures, why not a bit of mycelium?

Mike Redwood
December 4, 2019

mike@internationalleathermaker.com
Follow Dr Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

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