adidas has just announced its latest concept shoe, the Stan Mylo Smith “Unleather” sneaker comprised of a unique leather substitute: mushrooms. While the brand is no stranger to vegan leather, this expedition into the wide world of fungus comes from its push towards a fully sustainable shoe in the near future. Because the thing nobody ever tells you about “vegan leather”? It’s just plastic. So this venture in mycelial merchandising may prove a major step forward in eco-friendly manufacturing for all, not just the iconic sneaker brand.
Stan Smith Mylo: the mushroom shoe
The newest in the Stan Smith line, “Mylo” perhaps borrowing from the mycelium at the shoes foundation, is attempting to bring a new level of sustainable manufacturing to global stage. But mushroom leather as a concept comes not from the futuristic lab techs behind the sneaker giant, but a startup known as Bolt Threads, who originally intended to sell Unleather handbags out of Portland.
The Unleather starts out as a massive tray of frothy white mycelium, or mushroom root, grown similarly to the Baby Bellas you’d find in any supermarket. This “bag of smashed marshmallows” then undergoes an illusive processing, before it’s tanned and dyed to feel like real leather, which astoundingly, it does. Best of all, the leftover production waste is then composted. Proper compost can be used to plant new life, or feed necessary gardeners like worms and insects. Cue the “Circle of Life” music from Lion King.
The shoe itself features the revolutionary Unleather on its uppers, stripes, branding, and heel. At the moment, the integration is largely cosmetic. However, the brand is still pushing for use of sustainable base materials, like the natural rubber insole, even if its a little less sci-fi than the accents.
Pricing and availability
As of right now, the Stan Smith Mylo is only a concept, but we’re expected to see some viable proof of the fashion forward foot fungus, (say that three times fast,) in the near future. As for pricing, we could look to earlier Stan Smith models such as a the totally recyclable PRIMGREEN at around $80, (but on sale at Amazon for $68.) But being part of a newer generation and possible a newer species of sneaker, we could expect prices to fall between $150 and $200.
Sustainability is a complicated task that’s being lofted by a number of brands who aren’t quite ready for the consequences. Holistically, adidas is taking a stride forward in its push for totally sustainable materials in all of its shoes, but it may fall flat in other areas. If you want an in-depth dissection of whether to consider a brand “sustainable” or “ethical”, there are a few key places to look.
The first being if its manufacturing is ecologically sustainable, of which adidas does a fair job. Between recycling ocean waste and its new Unleather shoes, the brand is inching toward a considerably smaller footprint. And second, are its products humanely sustainable?
Overall, I’m excited for the mushroom shoes. It’s a wonderful innovation that can sever our dependency on technically “vegan” plastic, and it warms my heart in a geeky little science way. But in terms of sustainability, adidas and many, many other popular brands are perhaps still seeing the forest for the trees.
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