Fashion brand Adidas recently unveiled the Mylo Stan Smith, a vegan version of its iconic Stan Smith sneakers made with mushroom-based leather. The concept shoes were made in partnership with Bolt Threads, which supplied Mylo—vegan leather made from mycelium, the fast-growing root systems of mushrooms. While conventional leather is grown on a cow over the course of months and sometimes years, the mycelium used in Mylo grows in less than two weeks in a resource-efficient manner. The material is renewable, environmentally friendly, and performs exactly in the same way as traditional leather but without animal cruelty. The outer upper, perforated stripes, heel tab overlay, and premium branding are all made with Mylo and the midsole of the shoe is made with natural rubber.

“The introduction of Mylo as a new material is a major step forward in our bold ambition to help end plastic waste,” Amy Jones Vaterlaus, Global Head of Future at Adidas, said. “As a planet, we must learn to work with nature rather than against it and put all our efforts into finding innovative solutions that are created responsibly with resources that renew at a sustainable pace, designed in synergy with earth’s ecosystems. And as a brand, we continue to explore the possibilities in material innovation.”

While the Mylo Stan Smith is a concept shoe, Adidas expects to release a commercially available version of the renewable vegan sneakers in the near future. “By creating the iconic Stan Smith with a Mylo material upper, Adidas is demonstrating the far-reaching potential of this innovative material,” Jamie Bainbridge, Vice President of Product at Bolt Threads, said. “We are thrilled to be working with Adidas in the kind of development partnership that makes innovation a reality. Mylo has the strength and performance it does today thanks to the guidance and deep technical expertise of the Adidas team in making great footwear.”

The unveiling of the Mylo Stan Smith follows Adidas’ launch of the “Our Icons Go Vegan” initiative, in which the shoe brand is creating vegan versions of its classic styles. This collection includes the Samba ($80) and Continental 80 ($80), both embossed with a “Adidas Original Vegan” logo and made with animal-free materials, down to the glue. In addition to vegan leather, the latter style features environmentally friendly algae-based EVA foam for the construction of its midsole. Adidas also released a version of its Stan Smith sneakers last year that featured PRIMEGREEN—a material that does not use any virgin plastic—with an upper made from 50 percent recycled materials. 

Designers embrace vegan leather

Adidas released the first vegan Stan Smith in 2018, which was made in partnership with eco-conscious designer Stella McCartney. Since the release of the vegan sneakers—which gained celebrity fans, including Madonna and Meghan Markle—McCartney has also begun experimenting with Mylo. 

Last month, McCartney became the first designer to feature the mushroom leather in two concept pieces: a bustier and trousers. Adidas and McCartney are part of the Mylo Consortium—a multi-brand partnership Bolt Threads announced in 2020 which also includes Lululemon and Kering—which are slated to launch new products made with its innovative mushroom-based leather in 2021. 

In addition to mushroom leather, a growing number of brands are now using other environmentally friendly vegan leather alternatives. Iconic fashion brands, including Karl Lagerfeld, H&M, and Fossil, recently launched collections made with Desserto—a leather made from cactus leaves developed by Mexican entrepreneurs Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez. Additional innovation is on the horizon from brands such as Allbirds, which recently invested $2 million into creating alternatives to both animal and synthetic leathers from vegetable oil, natural rubber, and other eco-friendly materials.