As Merlin Sheldrake puts it in Entangled Life “fungi are metabolic wizards and can explore, scavenge and salvage ingeniously, their abilities rivalled only by bacteria”. Simply put, fungi have healing potentials that can target both body and mind.
Much like the way CBD or cannabidiol is an extract from the cannabis sativa plant without the psychoactive THC, mushrooms offer the same potential to make adaptogenic supplements. In the U.S., companies like Gwella are launching mushroom gummy products, drinks and mushroom growing kits into a growing market.
The psychoactive elements of mushrooms have also seen an uptick in clinical trials that show psilocybin – the active compound that makes mushrooms magic – can help treat a range of mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, anxiety and Alzheimer’s disease.
Some key mushrooms to look out for in wellness products include the reigning queen Reishi mushroom that has been used for thousands of years in medicines across Asia. This super mushroom helps to enhance the immune system, reduce stress, and improve sleep. Shiitake mushrooms have high levels of kojic acid, good for brightening skin. Turkey Tail or Trametes Versicolor mushrooms have antioxidants and probiotics that help the immune and digestive systems, and have found their way into many supplements.
With more than 14,000 mushroom species (not all safe for consumption!) it is worth looking to which mushrooms are being used across wellness products and their effects.
Modernist fashion designer Elsa Schiperelli made art nouveau hair pins and the 1960s counterculture claimed mushrooms as their own but since Vogue reported ‘It’s Time to Follow Bella Hadid and Embrace the Beauty of Mushrooms’ we might say these little spores are having something of a contemporary ‘moment’. Forget florals – it’s all about fungi.
Expect to see bulbous, cloudy shapes sprouting as an influence on silhouettes across runways. Rahul Mishra’s gowns mimicked the shelf-like structures of mushrooms growing on trees to make comments on what a post-human world might look like. Elsewhere, Daniel Del Core’s debut collection also nodded to the shapes and bioluminescence of the natural world.
Streetwear brands like Only NY and Brain Dead have also embraced the motif, exaggerating the personality of the magical mushroom to not only nod to its nostalgic power but to also share a message of sustainability. Eden Power Corp have created a bucket hat made from 100% mushroom material as well as creating eco-friendly packaging and recycled clothes in their sustainability lines.
Sustainability is at the heart of mushroom’s allure as a modern material – or more specifically – the mycelium roots from which they fruit. If the shape, colour and texture of mushrooms are inspiring the fashion world, it is the invisible networks of mycelium that offer new avenues for material design. Mycelium is the branching, thread-like roots that live underneath the soil, nourishing plant life. These fast-growing fibres offer loads of opportunities to make alternatives to plastics including mushroom styrofoam packaging as well as creating reusable beauty applicators and biomorphic furniture.
This futuristic fungus also makes a brilliant vegan leather. Hermès teamed up with MycroWorks to offer a new overnight bag and Stella McCartney collaborated with Mylo™ Unleather to experiment with next-generation garments. When you think about it, fungi, spores and mushrooms all predate human existence by millions of years. So, the current mushroom boom points to only one thing for certain… that there is much more to learn from their eco-systems and material properties as we usher in new worlds of sustainability, streetwear, psilocybin and beyond.