Thursday, September 21, 2023

Doing Mushrooms With Alexander McQueen and Jaden Smith


With its new psychedelic-themed collection, Jaden Smith’s MSFTS is aiming to do its part in expanding the collective consciousness. And Alexander McQueen wants you to remember the forests.

Jaden Smith is fairly certain mushrooms can save the world. Or at least, change how we view it in a way that’s critical to our own healing and the health of the planet. It’s part of the reason the MSFTS co-founder put psychedelics front and center for the label’s spring collection.

“I believe that mushrooms are going to help us expand consciousness,” he told Mr. Porter, where the collection launched. “The collection is not just clothes to sell. It’s loaded with spiritual experiences and mystical states. We’re just making clothes that can go along with people’s journeys.”

The new collection, dubbed Trippy Summer, reflects the brand’s recent shift from a streetwear brand into luxury wear with a sustainability ethos.

For luxury label Alexander McQueen, the impetus was enough to deliver its first show in New York in 20 years, replete with a performative nod to Bjork’s fairy-woodland-meets-cyber-world Cornucopia.

Psychedelic Design

Psychedelics are indeed having a renaissance, if only in design. Stella McCartney’s collection last September was steeped in mushrooms, followed by a Get Back Beatles era collection. But it’s not just design—mushrooms are front and center in health and wellness, beauty, and even replacing meat.

But in fashion, they’re sparking wonder and sustainability—Timothée Chalamet wore a Stella McCartney mushroom suit last October. And Alexander McQueen’s recent show in Brooklyn was called Mycelium (the underground root structures of mushrooms), and featured psychedelic designs and makeup to match.

“Mushrooms appeared in vibrant colors on tattered oversize knits, growing freaky tendrils via single strands of flowing mohair,” reported The New York Times. “They were also on asymmetric sleeveless dresses, piling on top of one another in a psychedelic mélange of crystals, beads and sequins.”

Sarah Burton Alexander McQueen’s creative director, says the label is also trialing mycelium leather. “But I didn’t want to do it until we actually have enough product to sort of talk about as a story,” she told the Times.

McCartney launched a limited-edition mushroom leather bag last September. Athleisure brand Lululemon launched two mushroom leather bags recently, and Hermès said it’s working on one, too.

lululemon mushroom bags
Image courtesy Lululemon

Mushroom leather isn’t the only vegan leather option on the market, but it is perhaps the best at mimicking cow leather in feel and function. It is far more sustainable and ethical than its traditional counterpart, which is dependent on animal agriculture, a leading driver of climate change.

A number of companies are working on mushroom leather including Myco Works, Ecovative, and Bolt Threads. It’s pricey and still only available in small quantities. But it’s coming; Ecovative has raised more than $100 million to produce mushroom leather, among other mushroom-based products. It has already landed commitments from labels including Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger to use the material.

According to Eben Bayer, Ecovative’s CEO, the company has engineered new mycelium structures that “match or out-perform plastic, leather, even meat, all of which turn to compost at the end of their useful life,” he said in a recent interview.

McQueen’s forest-inspired collection (models walked to “The Forest” by The Cure) was made to mimic the forest experience with mushroom designs if they’re not made from mushrooms themselves; the collection was made from “80 to 85 percent” recycled fabrics, Burton said. The set, which was made with dirt for its forested look, was recycled and donated to a farm and art project, the Times noted.

“The collection is very much about mycelium, woods, and these kind of crazy mushroom girls,” Alexander McQueen’s makeup artist Lucia Pieroni told Vogue. “They’re really beautiful, but quite pared back.” Pieroni scaled down the makeup to let the bold colors and designs of the collection stand out.

Mushrooms are also the focus for the new Pleasing beauty and fashion collection from Harry Styles. Psychedelia plays a role in the brand’s first London pop-up, and it tapped legendary 1970s musician Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac to front the new campaign.

The psychedelic moment

For Smith, it’s all tapping into a moment, a shift happening as we collectively battle issues that once again seem bigger than Covid, like the climate crisis, and unjustified war.

Design inspiration for MSFTS came from experiences common under the influence of psychedelics, like psilocybin mushrooms, something Smith and several members of his famous family have experienced—he’s the son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, and his sister and MSFTS co-founder is Willow Smith. And like a growing number of people, the Smith family has dabbled in psychedelics to explore new modes of mental health and healing.

 “Plant medicine can help people be young at mind,” Smith says. “As you get older, your brain gets more rigid and rigid and rigid and then right when your brain is set in its way, you start experimenting with mushrooms.”

Research continues to point to psychedelics, particularly psilocybin mushrooms, as a viable treatment for conditions including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Image courtesy MSFTS

Smith says his first psychedelic experience was life-changing.

“I was with people who I really loved dearly,” he said. “We go to a park, which was the best decision that we could have ever made. Everything just becomes so beautiful. We look at the sky and everybody starts feeling like they want to cry, but no one says anything. We were running in the park. We’re sprinting. We’re talking fast. We decided to hug a tree and felt like we actually went inside of the tree. I saw the inner workings of the tree and it looked like a rainbow. I could tell in that moment that trees were alive, but more alive than anyone could ever think. As alive as humans are.”

That put things in perspective. “I really saw what it was to not have an ego, losing track of yourself,” he says. “When I was hugging that tree, I was not Jaden Smith, the person. I was more of a raw-consciousness spirit of a human that was hugging a tree.”

Smith says the Trippy Summer collection pulls from those consciousness-expanding experiences with stereotypically psychedelic designs and inspiration from 1960s icons including Ken Kesey, but with an elevated, modern twist.

“We’re taking advantage of the certain visual cues that happen when you’re on mushrooms,” Smith says.

“Things slightly move. If you give something the feeling of motion, when you’re on mushrooms and you look at it, your brain will finish the work and put it in motion so that you’re like, ‘Holy fuck! His pants are moving,'” he told Mr. Porter.

The new collection aims to bridge gaps, to support the outliers, that even though Smith’s a child of successful parents and began his journey toward financial independence at age 8, still feels like where he fits in best—with those who don’t fit in. “It’s for the kids who stare out the window on the bus at the pink hue in the sky on the way back from school,” he says.

“It’s for the kids who are stealing MPCs [drum machines/samplers] out of the back of a studio’s freaking trash and trying to make a song and an album and something new. It’s for the kids who want to fucking, I don’t know, just be weird as fuck and came into this world as an alien. It’s for street rats who want to wear a skirt but are too afraid to go to the skate park like that because they know they’re going to get the shit beat out of them. It’s for the kids who are trans, that are not accepted for who they are. It’s still about misfits changing the world—being able to stand up for those kids that are getting beat down.”


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