Called MuSkin (see video below), this suede-like and soft material is extracted from the cap of the Phellinus ellipsoideus, a mushroom, and then processed very much like animal leather, although, according to manufacturer Grado Zero Espace, the tanning and production process for MuSkin has a much smaller impact on the environment.
Producing leather made from animal hide can pose numerous risks to the environment and to the people who carry out the work. The process is requires a lot of water and people treating and tanning animal hide can be exposed to a number of harmful substances like chromium (Gizmodo has a good rundown of the health and environmental impacts of animal leather). MuSkin producers aim to create a product that minimises the harm traditional leather can have on animals, the planet, the people making it and the people wearing it; mushroom leather is particularly suitable for the manufacturing of products that come in direct contact with the skin, like shoes, or watch-straps. Its moisture-absorbing and bacteria-preventing properties can bring a breath of fresh air to products such as the insoles of shoes, or hats.
It seems that there is an abundance of natural, sustainable, and animal-free leather options out there, which we are finally starting to tap into. In a sector that is wasteful and polluting thanks to its predilection for 'fast-fashion' and low-price (over quality and durability), low-impact, locally available and recyclable bio-products - whether from plants or food waste - can offer the fashion industry real options to green its practices. A huge plus with mushroom leather is also that, in terms of price, it could legitimately give animal leather a run for its money.
While MuSkin is not yet commercially available on a large scale but any makers or experimenters out there can get samples or small amounts from this website.