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Would You Wear These Fungus Clothes?

What is a fungus?

These are organisms that include yeasts and molds as well as mushrooms. Like plants, fungi cells have a rigid wall around them. However, there are differences between the cell wall of a plant and that of a fungus. The cell wall of plants is mostly made of cellulose, whereas the cell wall of fungi is mostly made of chitin and glucans. Glucans are also found in the cell wall of plants, but they typically make up at least half of the cell wall of fungi.  This makes the fungal cell wall very sturdy and resistant. Chitin is a strong, durable chemical which protects the fungal cells from harm and provides them support. Interestingly, chitins are also found in the exoskeleton or external hard skeleton of insects and crabs. Like plants, fungi often grow in soil and, in the case of mushrooms, form visible fruiting bodies, which sometimes resemble plants such as mosses.

Fungus clothes
Image Credit- Flickr_-_Dick_Culbert

What are some examples of fungi?

About 144,000 known species of organisms belong to the kingdom Fungi. These include yeasts, rusts, smuts, molds, mushrooms, and mildews.

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What are the parts of a fungus?

Very fine, branching, thread-like structures called hyphae form the main body of the fungus. All the hyphae together form a structure called the mycelium. Think of many wires that are tangled together: the hyphae are like wires, and the tangled bundle they produce is the mycelium. Apart from hyphae and mycelium, a fungus also has a specialised structure for reproduction called a fruiting body. It produces spores. A mushroom is a fruiting body of a fungus.

Are fungi being used for making clothes?

Yes! You heard that right. Mushrooms are being used for more than making delicious dishes. They are being used by the design and fashion industries for making clothes, purses, and even durable furniture.

What is the importance of fungal clothing?

The fashion industry contributes a lot to the greenhouse effect by emitting harmful gases and polluting waste material. However, it also has one of the largest consumer bases, of people all over the world. Therefore, fashion designers had to think of an idea that could reduce the harmful impacts on the environment but also be trendy and fashionable. Clothing made from fungus is sustainable and environment-friendly. It is renewable, strong, and does not require harmful chemicals to make. It doesn’t even require sewing!

How is fabric being made from fungus?

Making clothes using material obtained from small organisms like bacteria and fungi is a process called bio-fabrication. It means making something out of living material. Mycelium is the part of the fungi which is used for making fabrics. Different types of fungi are grown to obtain different types of fabric materials. When raised in a suitable environment, like straw, mycelium can be made into fabric for clothes and purses, or into a harder material for furniture.

What are the properties of this fungal fabric?

The material created from fungi is non-toxic, waterproof, fire-resistant, and doesn’t require sewing. It only requires the measurements of the person the garment is being made for. Since mycelium is used, the fabric is soft and spongy while also being biodegradable. The material is also anti-microbial and has no added chemicals in it. The fungi that grow in the soil are degraded back to soil once the garment is discarded. Thus, it is a soil-to-soil cloth.

Who are some designers that have made these fungal clothes?

Several leading and innovative designers have created fantastic and fashionable clothes using mycelium from fungi. Aniela Hoitink is a Dutch fashion designer who created a showstopper dress using mycelium. She calls the fabric MycoTEX. She used petri dishes to supply nutrients and grow mycelium into disc shapes. She stuck these fungal discs onto a mannequin to form a dress. No sewing was required. Another designer, named Suzanne Lee, creates beautiful luxury clothing from mycelium that has been grown to resemble the texture of leather.

Read the above paragraphs on how clothes can be made from fungi and answer the following questions:

  1. What is bio-fabrication?
  • The process of obtaining material from microbes and small organisms to create clothing fabric
  • The process of obtaining material from large animals to create clothing fabric
  • The process of obtaining material from plants to create clothing fabric
  • All of the above
Ans: a
  1. Which part of the fungus is used to make clothes?
  • Fruiting body
  • Hyphae
  • Mycelium
  • Spores
Ans: c
  1. Why are clothes made from fungi important?
  • They are eco-friendly
  • They are biodegradable
  • They do not need sewing
  • All of the above
Ans: d
  1. Which is a suitable environment to grow fungi for fabric?
  • Strong acids
  • Straw
  • Weak acids
  • Wood bark
Ans: b

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