Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger Join the Plastic-Free Vegan Leather Movement

Editorial TeamEditorial Team
October 27th, 2022
6:37 PM

Ecovative is part of an emerging industry of producers of materials that use mushrooms instead of animal skins to make leather, and are bringing major brands like Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and Stella McCartney on board.

  Vegan leather is a material that mimics leather but is created from artificial or plant-based products instead of animal skin. Vegan leather is usually made from polyurethane (PU) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), but can also be made from innovative and sustainable materials such as pineapple leaves, mushrooms, cork, apple peel, waste from other fruits and recycled plastic.  

The Impact of Leather

Buying leather contributes directly to factory farms and slaughterhouses because leather is the most economically important co-product in the meat industry. It is a fact that factory farming has a huge impact on the planet and leather shares responsibility for all the environmental destruction caused by the meat industry, as well as the pollution caused by the toxins used in tanning.

When the milk production of cows in the dairy industry decreases, their skin is turned into leather. Leather production is linked to serious sustainability problems and has severe environmental impacts, such as over-exploitation of land, gas emissions, deforestation and water.

The process of converting hide into leather is very cruel to animals. Most of the leather that is produced and sold is made from the skins of cows and calves. The skins of unborn calves and lambs - some deliberately aborted, others from slaughtered cows and pregnant sheep - are considered a "luxury". Leather is also made from sheep, pigs, goats and other species hunted and killed specifically for their skins, such as kangaroos, elephants, crocodiles, snakes and others.

Using plastic leather as an alternative is also problematic, as it wears down very fast, and it isn't biodegradable.  


Partnering with Ecovative

Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein’s parent company PVH Corp, has partnered with biotech company Ecovative to opt out of using plastic vegan leather. Through this partnership, PVH will have priority access to Ecovative's sustainable vegan leather made from fast-growing mycelium, which are fungal root systems.

PVH will also work directly with Ecovative to jointly develop custom mycelium materials to carry a range of retail products, from soft vegan leather accessories and garments to thick, durable belts and shoes. For over ten years Ecovative has been producing mycelium materials for partners in North America, Europe and Asia. Earlier this year, the company launched Forager Hides, a vegan leather-based on Ecovative's second-generation mycelium materials, to help solve sustainability challenges in the fashion industry.

The 100% organic material is grown in sheets up to 24 metres (78 feet) long and 1.8 metres wide and can be grown to partners' specific needs in terms of tensile strength, density and fibre orientation. While it takes months or years to raise animals for their skins, Ecovative's Forager growth process takes only nine days and produces a ready-to-finish material free of plastic and oil.

Ecovative's latest innovation is its high-performance mycelium smelter that allows modulation of the tensile strength, density and fibre orientation of the mycelium that make up the Forager skins. Due to the compact, vertical design, the first farm is designed to produce three million square feet of leather-like material annually on just one acre of land.

As part of Tommy Hilfiger's parent company PVH's Fashion Forward strategy to source ethical materials, the group has outlined 15 priorities designed to reduce negative impacts to zero. These also include improving the lives of the one million people who make up its value chain, In addition to its organic cotton being certified Made in Green by OEKO-TEX®. Similar efforts have been seen on behalf of Calvin Klein, in its decision to source Supima cotton for example.



Mushroom Leather is Taking Over

Ecovative is part of an emerging industry of producers of materials that use mushrooms instead of animal skins to make leather, and they are bringing major fashion brands on board. Last year, fashion industry giants Adidas, Stella McCartney, Lululemon and Kering, a luxury fashion group that manages the development of brands such as Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen, partnered with biotech startup Bolt Threads to give them exclusive access to Bolt Threads' Mylo material, which also uses fast-growing mycelium to create vegan leather.