A few years ago, at one of the last American Express Luxury Summits, the renowned Richard David Story, EIC of Departures Magazine, interviewed Richard Chavez, Hermes President and CEO of the Americas.
Mr. Story had a joyful penchant for asking questions that were direct, needful, and unadorned: questions that most wanted to know but would never ask. So, he asked anyway: “Why are Hermês’ handbags so expensive?”
Mr. Chavez answered, without missing a beat, “Because it takes time to find the perfect skin.”
A memorable answer.
With this in mind, Hermês, a family-owned company in existence since 1837, and whose leather brand deals with finding, tanning and creating perfect animal skins into perfect products, surprised many recently with the announcement that Hermês was collaborating with a company that created a new type of skin: sustainable, neither animal, nor vegetable, to its collection. The material is called Reishi – a new class of sustainable material whose material is fine mycelium. The company that created the material, three years in the making, is MycoWorks.
It is now collaborating with Hermês to create the first objects made with fine mycelium, with the development of the new material, made from reishi, is called ‘Sylvania — produced in the MycoWorks facility.
That product, Reishi, A fungi-based “fine mycelium” emulates many sensory aspects of genuine leather. The founder is Philip Ross, an artist who’s exhibited at MoMA and the Venice Biennale, and spent 20 years developing the biomaterial. In the past few months with the aid of MycoWorks CEO Matt Scullin, a materials scientist— both decided to unveil Reishi.
The ‘Victoria’ bag, is an example of the use of the new Sylvania material Tanned and finished in France by the Hermès tanners, further refining its strength and durability, before being shaped in the workshops by Hermès craftspeople. Many feel it defines the new, sustainable future of the leather industry.
It is said that Hermès immediately understood the MycoWorks story as it recognized that MycoWorks’ unique biotechnology enhanced a natural material, creating a new, sustainable, green product.
“MycoWorks’ vision and values echo those of Hermès," said Pierre-Alexis Dumas, Hermès artistic director in a recent DesignBoom interview, “……a strong fascination with natural raw material and its transformation, a quest for excellence, with the aim of ensuring that objects are put to their best use and, that their longevity is maximized. With Sylvania, Hermès is the heart of what it has always been: innovation in the making.”
This unique/natural/ sustainable partnership pairs tanning expertise with biotechnological tools that could possibly transform the luxury goods industry. In comparison to other animal skins, MycoWorks and its reishi material can be transformative, in terms of strength, durability, and feel. The material allows luxury fashion brands to consider product construction from a sustainability standpoint, sustaining traditions of craftsmanship in a more future-friendly way than before.
The fine mycelium material makes green sense of multiple dimensions and enhances the original definition of Mr. Chavez’s answer about finding the perfect skin. It can now be created in terms of the more sustainable future: still luxurious, but with more perfectibility, creating not only a more perfect skin but a more perfectable future.