Story by Katrice Dustin in conversation with MycoWorks Chief of Product, Mike Todd. Photography by Alyssa Duncan.
MycoWorks is creating a new industry standard for superior quality through the actionable traceability of our products. By tracing defining moments in the creation of each sheet of Reishi™, our teams apply data to further refine a sheet’s structure and appearance, shaping desired outcomes in less than 6 weeks. Reishi™ can be fully optimized from initial growth to the final stages of production: a revolutionary advantage that gives brands a sustainable alternative to leather that can be fine-tuned to achieve uncompromising quality and aesthetics.
Reishi™ can be fully optimized from initial growth to the final stages of production: a revolutionary advantage.
From product start to finish, MycoWorks’ Fine Mycelium™ experts work alongside in-house specialists with premium-tier brand partners to create unique materials for iconic designs and new, one-of-a-kind products. Chief of Product Mike Todd is integral to the process of ensuring Reishi meets our brand partners’ highest standards. A former SVP of Supply Chain at Coach, Mike provides invaluable insight and a thorough understanding of the luxury leathers and garments industry. Mike’s journey with MycoWorks began in autumn 2018 when, embarking on his retirement in New Hampshire, he was introduced to CEO Matt Scullin by a mutual friend.
“Matt’s positive attitude, intelligence and integrity was refreshing and his candid discussion was a big change from the pre-packaged talks I was familiar with in the corporate world.”
Mike remembers well their initial introduction: “Matt’s positive attitude, intelligence and integrity was refreshing and his candid discussion was a big change from the pre-packaged talks I was familiar with in the corporate world.”
Intrigued by the new natural material Matt was describing, Mike soon hopped on a plane to San Francisco to experience Reishi firsthand at the MycoWorks labs. There, he was immediately inspired by Matt’s vision and ambitions for Reishi. “We went for a burrito and took a long walk. Matt was youthful, energetic, impressive, and really cared about creating this luxury material that was super positive for the environment,” Todd explains.
”I thought to myself, here’s a group of talented people with so much energy and belief in their product. All of this made a huge difference in my decision to join.”
“In the lab I was able to speak with the small scientific team, and Matt had a great rapport with each of them. I thought to myself, here’s a group of talented people with so much energy and belief in their product. All of this made a huge difference in my decision to join.”
“I began to reminisce about some of the beautiful products I had developed in the past and thought of all the ways I could harness my knowledge to make this new luxury material,”
Touching Reishi for the first time brought Mike back to his years working in a vegetable tannery in the UK, where he followed recipes handed down from skilled craftsmen. “I began to reminisce about some of the beautiful products I had developed in the past and thought of all the ways I could harness my knowledge to make this new luxury material,” he shares. Mike brings a master craftsman’s ability to assess quality through intimate attention to detail, and the generosity of an experienced teacher who has mentored a generation of apprentices.
”Reishi™ should live in a category of its own.”
At MycoWorks, Mike relishes “getting data-driven scientists closer to the hands-on, sensorial experience earned from my years of top leather industry immersion. This transfer of knowledge that can only happen through people.“ And while Todd understands that the look and feel of Reishi rivals that of leather, he advocates against comparisons, insisting it should live in a category of its own. “Of course, there’s a certain spirituality and redemption seeking in working with non-animal material—the guilt is gone,” says Todd. “But we simply want to add value to the industry. We are a powerful choice, not a substitute for leather.”
New products made with Reishi are created through a synergy of art and science that combines the groundbreaking technology of MycoWorks’ Fine Mycelium™ experts and the artisanal craftsmanship of luxury design partners. When asked how he approaches design collaborations, Mike lights up: “I ask myself, how does the client connect with the material? It’s tactile—there is life in the way it moves. There is often an emotional connection.”
“I ask myself, how does the client connect with the material? It’s tactile—there is life in the way it moves. There is often an emotional connection.”
He compares the dynamic to artists collaborating on an art piece, where everyone is invested in each step of the work’s creation. The revolutionary advantage of the traceability of Reishi™ enables a reciprocal creative process in which expert brand and design partners communicate their material needs and ideals, and the MycoWorks team fine-tunes each sheet of Reishi™ to ensure a final product perfectly suited to each client.
The revolutionary advantage of the traceability of Reishi™ enables a reciprocal creative process.
For Mike, “traceability and collaborative working relationships are grown from the ongoing conversation between brands, designers and our experts. We are very dependent on knowledge of the process, which consists of the people and the product, inside MycoWorks and out, from birth to rebirth,” says Todd. “If you have the knowledge and are able to relay the data, then your customers and partners can work with you to develop their understanding of the product in a completely open way.”
MycoWorks has created the world’s first non-plastic, non-animal biomaterial that performs like leather, and with a growing list of elite brand collaborations on the horizon, the Reishi team is helping to launch a new era in fashion. For Mike Todd and his peers, this is an unprecedented time in which designers can control their materials not only at the product development stage, but also from day one of production, enabling them to engineer properties on demand for custom performance comparable to a variety of animal leathers.
“When we are adaptable yet hold a vision for the future, the possibilities become endless.”
For Mike, this new era also means continuously improving the development process in collaboration with brand partners, and his excitement for this work is undeniable: “even with where I am in my life, I can never stop learning. If you stop learning, what’s the point?” Mike’s ambitions are clear: “when we are adaptable yet hold a vision for the future, the possibilities become endless.”