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Dutch Designer Grows Eco-Friendly Dress from Mushroom Root in One Week

While most fashion designers prefer to sew their creations, 41-year-old Aniela Hoitink has chosen to ‘grow’ hers in petri dishes. The Amsterdam-based textile designer recently created a 100 percent biodegradable dress – good for the environment and your skin – using nothing but discs of mushroom root.

By sticking the discs together, Aniela created a surprisingly good-looking dress that seems to fit the female figure perfectly. She needed 350 discs to make a single dress, so she spent a week-and-a-half growing them in petri dishes before they were ready to be used. Because the dress requires no cutting or sewing, there is no leftover material that needs to be discarded. The material doesn’t require hemming either, so it can be cut to suit the wearer’s requirements of length or shape. And more discs can be added to create sleeves or length. The dress can be composted when it is no longer needed, so it doesn’t actually end up in landfills.

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To create the perfect mushroom discs, Aniela had to combine technology and microbiology, using the fungus provided by a lab at Utrecht University in Holland. She spent time observing several soft-bodied organisms that grow by replicating themselves several times over, before deciding to combine textile elements with mycelium – the vegetative part of a mushroom. Mycelium is fast-growing and non-toxic when dried, and also water-resistant and fire proof.

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At first, drying made the fungus brittle and stiff, but Aniela figured out a way to keep it dry yet flexible.  After a year-and-a-half’s efforts she finally managed to produce a durable, workable material that she calls ‘MycoTEX’.

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“Mycelium has been used in the packaging industry before but never in the fashion industry,” she explained. “I needed thinner layers than they use for packaging. I grow it in a petri dish in a clean environment with no other bacteria  and then overlap the thin layers to create a fabric. Each sheet is a little bit like a fluffy pancake when you take it out. With mycelium you have to dry it to stop it growing but that makes it brittle and stiff, which is totally unsuitable for textiles.”

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“I developed a recipe that means after drying it still remains flexible,” she added. “Then I just layer the pieces and attach to each other. There’s no need for sewing and you can see the dress comes together three-dimensionally as you’re making it. And if there’s a hole, you can just put a new patch on to cover it, without affecting the way the fabric looks.”

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“I want to inspire people to think differently about fashion,” said Aniela, who worked for different fashion brands for 12 years before starting her own company, NEFFA. “It’s about sustainability and people buying clothes in a good way. People might be frightened by the idea of wearing something made out of fungi but it doesn’t feel like a mushroom. Most people say it feels like paper. It’s comfortable and nice to wear.”

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Aniela is currently working on making the MycoTEX stronger, and hopes that the fabric will be on the high street in a few years time. She also wants to create textiles with pure mycelium, because she strongly believes that biotechnology is the way forward.

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Photos: MycoTEX/Aniela Hoitink

via Dezeen