Designer Stella McCartney, yoga label Lululemon, and luxury group Kering already rely on Mylo, the mushroom-based leather alternative. Now sporting giant Adidas is looking to tap into the plant-based material. Made from mycelium, the underground roots of mushrooms, Adidas elevates the Stan Smith silhouette by creating a sustainable renewable alternative to leather. FashionUnited spoke to the experts behind the shoe and how Mylo, the innovative material, is created.
For the Stan Smith Mylo, the Germany-based sporting goods company collaborated with US-based biotechnology company Bolt Threads, responsible for developing the mycelium material. Mycelium is a renewable fungal network that grows underground which looks and feels like soft leather.
Adidas believes it has unearthed the breakthrough technology it’s been searching for with its mushroom mycelium shoe in terms of alternative leather solutions. “We feel that with Mylo and the way we brought Mylo to life in a shoe, we are really innovating in leather,” David Quass, Adidas global director for brand sustainability, told FashionUnited. “We imitate nature by taking mycelial cells and growing them in the laboratory.”
With this bio-based material, Adidas is taking the next step in its “Own The Game” strategy, in which the company aims to place a strong focus on sustainability.
“Sustainability has been an integral part of Adidas’ corporate philosophy for more than two decades. It is a direct expression of the company’s purpose, to be able to change lives through sport,” said CEO Kasper Rorsted recently at the presentation of the five-year strategy in March.
Stan Smith Mylo: Adidas produces its first sneakers made from mushroom mycelium
The mycelium, which is the basis of the leather alternative, is produced in a highly efficient growth process that takes less than two weeks. According to the brand, the method uses a vertical farming technique that allows the mycelium to be grown in a space-saving system that increases the yield per square meter. As a result, the production rate of the leather alternative significantly exceeds that of animal material.
“With the idea that you can grow a material in two weeks, as opposed to growing an animal hide in a year, you can do a lot more with it,” stated Jamie Bainbridge, VP of design and product development at Bolt Threads. The partnership with Adidas has helped Bolt Threads better understand its material and its ability to turn it into a commercial product, Bainbridge said during the interview.
The finished Mylo is used for the outer upper material, perforated three stripes, and heel tab overlay of the Stan Smith. The midsole is constructed from natural rubber. Although the Mylo material is versatile in the way it can take on various tones, colors, or finishes, Adidas has opted to release its first Mylo sneaker in traditional Stan Smith white.
Despite an already familiar silhouette that hasn’t changed in the last 50 years, Adidas worked for more than twelve months to develop the new material for the Stan Smith Mylo. Because the material is so unique, the team looked at every step of the production process and learned how to innovate to create the sneaker that everyone recognizes, explained Martin Love, category director at Adidas Originals.
Adidas: Sustainability should not be an exclusive club
Adidas has not yet announced an exact price to FashionUnited, but the Stan Smith Mylo should not be more expensive than previous models. The ‘Stan Smith’ models start at just under 100 dollars on the Adidas online shop and can increase in price depending on the version. For example, the “Stan Smith, Forever” published in March - made from recycled materials - costs 120 dollars.
In terms of general pricing, Adidas doesn’t want consumers to pay for sustainability. “Sustainability shouldn’t be an exclusive club in any way,” stated Love in an interview. Although innovative materials can raise products’ prices, Adidas said it could lower costs through its sourcing practices.
“Scaling innovation in a brand context always comes with internal overhead. It’s up to us as a brand to mitigate those costs and find the right scaling mechanics and dynamics to ensure the Mylo Stan is competitively priced - relative to other franchises - that the consumer has come to expect from Adidas,” said Quass.
The Stan Smith Mylo is slated to hit the market within the next twelve months. However, according to Rorsted and experts, it should not stop there. Adidas is planning to implement additional products derived from Mylo.
This article was originally published on FashionUnited.DE, translated and edited to English by Tess Stenzel.