Story by Marian Halls. Video by Spreadhouse, Creative Direction by Xavier Gallego, Art Direction by Cheryln Quan Read, Content Strategy by Chanthal Fadul Otto, Production by Mette Qvistgaard.
“Don’t sleep on Reishi™.”
“It feels so much like real leather. Beautiful.”
“The hand-feel — it’s so hard to see it on the internet, you can’t feel it. So the minute I saw it here I thought, ‘this is so great!’”
“It feels like lambskin. It’s just so soft, it’s surreal.”
Over three days this spring, we opened our doors to the public and welcomed hundreds of guests to Freedom of Creation, an interactive exhibit in NYC that offered the chance to get hands-on with Reishi™ and learn how MycoWorks is unleashing the power of Fine Mycelium™ to Grow the Future of Materials.
It was a milestone in our story as a brand. We’ve been here before, but not like this. We first shared Reishi™ with the world at New York Fashion Week in early 2020, when we hosted a small selection of brand partners, investors, and media outlets at a private showroom in Soho, sharing about a dozen Reishi™ sheets with our guests.
This time, we welcomed more than 500 guests to a completely immersive event. The 105 sheets of Reishi™ we shared at the event told the story of the superior quality, customizability, and limitless potential of Reishi™ better than words could. It was our moment to share the most expansive experience of our brand yet — not only Reishi™ our material, but also the unprecedented potential of MycoWorks’ Fine Mycelium™ platform, the technology behind Reishi™.
“Oh, you have an ostrich bag? I have a Fine Mycelium™ one.”
“Freedom of Creation”: the name of the event became an invitation to explore an incredible, revolutionary freedom to customize—a unique freedom that Fine Mycelium™ makes possible. Interactive tables drew guests in to explore the creative possibilities of working with Reishi™, where the possibilities of MycoWorks’ revolutionary Fine Mycelium™ platform were given full reign.
Each moment added to a story we were telling in multiple dimensions: immersive installations to inspire people through touch, feel, scent and experience.
In one area, a display case exhibited prototypes of objects made with Reishi™: shoes, belts, an ultra-thin smartphone case, a stitchless wallet. Nearby, a table displayed various Reishi™ sheets made with different composite materials grown as customized layers within the material for made-to-spec performance: copper, gold-plated mesh, and kevlar each resulting in finished Reishi™ sheets with different hand-feel, texture, and material properties. Because the material is grown and not processed, designers can tune the composite interior any way they want. Imagine a material that is waterproof, with the hand-feel of silk. Or a sheet of Reishi™ built for connectivity. Imagine a high-performance shoe grown into shape using Fine Mycelium™ technology. Imagine growing bulletproof leather.
“The ability to customize Reishi™ to the performance specs that designers want is a really incredible unlock, and not possible with any other material,” said Wei-En Chang, MycoWorks’ Senior Director of Product Strategy.
At an atelier table, Reishi™ sheets were interspersed among traditional leather tools. “For the ateliers that we work with, there’s no learning curve,” Wei-En shared. “So a leather craftsperson can take Reishi™ and use all the same tools and techniques that they’re used to. Their skills that they’ve built up over a lifetime apply to our product.”
Between rooms, a pair of lovingly worn dance shoes hung from their ribbons on the hallway wall. Beside them, a reflection by Sophia Wang, MycoWorks co-founder and Chief of Culture had been posted:
“Growing Fine Mycelium™ sheets is a carefully choreographed ritual involving the body, the hands, and critical decisions at every step.”
For many, it was a moment when everything clicked: it was the opening that let guests discover Sophia’s story as a dancer and an artist. This moment, small in the scheme of the event, drew an important connection for many guests — it made visible and immediate the radical commitment to aesthetics and quality that has been at the heart of MycoWorks and the development of the Fine Mycelium™ platform since the beginning. Devotion to beauty, attentiveness to details, a profound admiration for traditional craftsmanship: we infuse these intentions in everything we do, from the Reishi™ sheets to the technology behind them, from objects crafted with Reishi™ to the immersive exhibit itself. The invisible, visible.
“This experience has made me a true believer.”
Near the entrance, a canvas-based sculptural art piece by Janaina Mello Landini titled “Ciclotrama 249 (superstrato)” set a reflective tone, evoking the organic, interweaving threads of mycelium. From there a dark, quiet walkway led into the exhibit, cleansing all senses from the noises of the bustling city outside. At the walkway’s end, sheets of Reishi™ in varied earth tones were loosely stacked at a table, an aura of timelessness hanging on them. Attendees were invited to pick up a sheet, to feel and experience it.
“It has the quality of leather, it’s soft and supple,” one guest said. “So soft. It’s like butter—it has a buttery feel,” said another. “It smells like leather!” “This is great for interiors and couches—it’s very durable.”
A designer would move back and forth between a warm, soft and springy sheet, and a smoother one reflecting a slight sheen under the room’s soft light. “I mean it’s so smooth, it feels just like leather to me. And I love the different textures captured on it.” It only took a few seconds at the Reishi™ table for a guest’s curiosity to come alive. “It’s beautiful. It’s like the first thing I wanted to do is touch this.”
“It’s a surprisingly natural feeling. It feels animal-based, which is really surprising.”
The first and best moment of the journey to discover a new era in the history of materials: a moment of unparalleled design freedom. It’s a moment that made each of us a true believer—and one we love to share, again and again. We’re more than ready to give more designers the experience of Reishi™—the first biomaterial of its kind. The first to offer the quality and performance of the finest animal leathers, but with something new: infinite customizability.