Sustainable fashion brand Reformation is the latest label to join Ecovative’s Fashion for Good Cooperative aimed at bringing mycelium-based materials to market.
Reformation, along with Wolverine, parent company to Merrell, Saucony, Keds, and Chaco, among others, joins PVH brands Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, as well as Pangia and Vivobrefoot in Ecovative’s mission to replace animal leather. Wolverine is working specifically in the testing, development, and commercialization of custom mycelium materials for use in their products.
The brands are all working with Ecovative’s Forger Hides division, which is developing leather from mycelium—the root structure of mushrooms that can be used like leather without the environmental or ethical issues.
“We’re beyond excited to join Ecovative’s cooperative to support the development of an entirely plastics-free leather alternative for scalable industry use,” Kathleen Talbot, Reformation’s Chief Sustainability Officer & VP of Operations, said in a statement.
“Since relaunching our Ref Shoes category in 2021, we’ve invested deeply in the nex-gen space to find a vegan solution that meets our high product and sustainability standards, without the plastic. Helping test and bring Ecovative’s Forager Hide to market is a critical evolution of this work, and one that we hope will drive forward a holistic sustainability agenda for fashion. We’re energized to unlock a solution that can not only be used in future Reformation collections but be made available to the entire industry,” Talbot added.
Ecovative’s Fashion for Good
The partnership is a natural fit for Reformation. The Los Angeles-based fashion label has been focused on responsible sourcing since its launch in 2009, working with sustainable and recycled materials to reduce its environmental impact. It also produces locally in Los Angeles, supporting the city’s garment industry.
“The need for more sustainable materials is clear, and we couldn’t be more excited to bring them to market in partnership with Wolverine and Reformation,” says Gavin McIntyre, Ecovative’s Co-Founder and Chief Commercial Officer. “Both companies represent an immense amount of market knowledge, a diverse family of products, and expertise in complex supply chains that will be crucial to applying our mycelium materials for maximum impact. Together we are taking a big step towards transforming these industries for the better.”
Ecovative cites the urgency of the climate crisis s a key reason to replace leather. “Industrial animal agriculture — of which leather is a co-product — requires more arable land than any industry on Earth, consuming immense amounts of water, and using caustic chemicals,” the brand sid. “Plastics also represent a global crisis, and the apparel space has an especially high footprint of plastic, which is involved in almost every product for structural support and durable finishes, making many of them impossible to recycle or reclaim. Ecovative’s mycelium technologies make it possible to replace these unsustainable materials with fully compostable alternatives that come from and return to nature.”
The New York-based Ecovative is working to develop soft goods for fashion and apparel. With feedback from its Fashion for Good partners, it’s continuing its exploration into new materials. Already, it’s developed leather and foam replacements made from mycelium.
“All of Ecovative’s products are completely bio-based, free of plastics and toxic chemicals, grown on agricultural byproducts such as woodchips and seed hulls, and fully compostable at the end of a product’s life,” the company says.
It can grow 24-meter long by a nearly two-meter wide sheet of the vegan leather in just nine days, the company says. “These mycelium materials represent viable, sustainable, scalable alternatives to the fashion and apparel industries’ unsustainable status quo.”
Wolverine Worldwide has been slower to the sustainability category. But it’s taking noticeable steps toward more eco practices. Its Merrell label recently announced the launch of This Is Home, a multi-year initiative aimed at supporting consumers to make better choices. The new resale program will take back products in a move toward circularity. The brand estimates it will save 300,000 pairs of shoes from landfills.
The This Is Home program launched last month with help from ReCircled to develop new products from the footwear returned to the brand by customers.
“The role of This is Home is to ignite our emotional connection to the outdoor environments around us, by encouraging people to deepen their experiences locally,” Chris Hufnagel, Global Brand President of Merrell, said in a statement. “We believe the outdoors is a place that people can always come home to, and that is why we are committed to preserve and protect the places we recreate. The Merrell ReTreadSM program is a firm step in our sustainable commitment, enabling us to extend the life of our Merrell footwear and giving people more options to minimize their environmental footprint.”
This Is Home and the Ecovative announcement follows the brand’s sustainability pledge targets. It says that by 2025 100 percent of its products will contain organic, recycled, or renewable materials and be responsibly sourced. It will reduce its shoe and apparel samples by 50 percent, reduce its use of plastic packaging, and complete 10,000 volunteer hours.