Source & photo courtesy: neffa.nl
After all these reports I’ve been writing, I bet every reader has understood by now how wondrous fungi are. Moreover, as researches are exploring new possibilities, I think it’s very clear what an environmentally sustainable alternative the kingdom of fungi offers to already existing mundane things such as packaging, bricks or even paper.
So why would the fashion industry be the exception to this rule? Even though inspiration might come from past trends, designers are up to experimenting with different things in their humane quest to innovate the craft. Nowadays, probably the most inspiring tool is provided by technology which offers a new and limitless playground. Also, this technology is used for testing ideas for products with smaller impact on the environment, a subject that keeps on expanding as the concern regarding the future of our planet is growing. Thus, it seems more than logical that the second most polluting industry on Earth should look for ecological alternatives.
One such initiative comes to life through Neffa company. Their name means in Dutch “wanting to do things just that bit differently” and their self-described mission is “to create textiles that act like living organisms and with which we live in symbiosis”. They aim to create materials using biotechnology that would resemble the skin and its dynamic. They are researching several organisms, for example algae and mycelium, but what I’ll be talking about is how the company uses mycelium to create a sort of textile, which they called mycoTex.
The soul of the company is Aniela Hoitink, a textile designer. In the beginning she was interested in creating a textile out of a living product, which will eventually end up in a wearable piece of clothing. That is how she began experimenting with mycelium that is the vegetative part of a fungus. What encouraged her in using the mycelium were the insulating and moisture-absorbing proprieties of it, which a lot of textiles miss. However, she was not alone in her endeavor: the University of Utrecht and Maurizio Montalti were helping with the technical part. What they tried to experiment with was: growing mycelium onto natural fibers, growing it with polymer spacer fabrics and growing it in a 3D star shaped petri-dish.
Some of the initial findings of these experiments were that mycelium does not grow on a tight knitted or woven fabric and that mycelium does not use the textile as a food source.
Eventually, Aniela developed the composite product named MycoTex and then decided to build a textile out of modules and shaped these circular pieces around a body form, thus creating the Neffa dress. This creation is groundbreaking because it can be built whilst being made, fitting the customer’s wishes, because it eliminates the possible leftovers made during the process and it can be composted when it’s no longer desired.
Another such invention came to life by the hands of Danish product designer Jonas Edward, who created a material called MYX, which is grown from mushroom spores and plant fibers. His idea combines natural plant fibers (agricultural waste) and oyster mycelium. During the production of the material which takes about two weeks, the mycelium spreads through the textile matt (hemp and linen fibers), behaving like a glue between the fibers. The mycelium who continues to collect energy from the plant material, breaks down the cellulose into sugar, in this way producing mushrooms ready to be eaten! (If the material is dried, there will be no “offsprings”). In the end, the creation of this material, from which the designer made a lamp with, produces no waste – something that the creator aimed for and which is also a great achievement in today’s manufacturing.
A report by Ioana Popescu