By Robyn Griggs Lawrence By Robyn Griggs Lawrence | November 18, 2021 | Culture Food & Drink Lifestyle Style & Beauty Events Food & Drink Feature Style & Beauty Feature Culture Feature Style Style & Beauty fashion Food & Drink
FROM HAUTE COUTURE TO HAUTE CUISINE, THE FABULOUS WORLD OF FUNGI IS HAVING A MOMENT.
AS PROLIFIC AS MORELS AFTER A SPRING RAIN, mushrooms are everywhere. They’re front and center on the runways, inspiring collections by Iris van Herpen, Stüssy, Marc Jacobs and Rahul Mishra. Women’s Wear Daily declared them a star of Paris Couture Week. Bella Hadid wears them on T-shirts, jewelry and bags and even had celebrity manicurist Mei Kawajiri paint spores on her nails. They’re the “it” ingredient in beauty creams, and artists around the world are finding their inspiration in the kingdom of fungi. Meanwhile, groundbreaking technological advancements have allowed upscale brands like Stella McCartney to create leatherlike apparel from mushrooms.
As plant-based diets gain popularity, top chefs are adding fungi-inspired plates to their menus. Functional mushrooms, which have health benefits that transcend nutrition, are a $23 billion global industry. Psilocybin, the psychedelic component of certain mushrooms, is showing so much promise in treating depression that the FDA has granted it breakthrough status.
In 2019, Denver became the first city in the nation to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms, and Coloradans have been experimenting with the health benefits of microdosing psilocybin ever since. While it remains illegal to purchase magic mushrooms, supplies for home-growers can be found at Lion’s Mane in RiNo, the nation’s first and only brick-and-mortar shop catering to fungi cultivators and mycologists.
With a rich history and lots of room to grow, mushroom culture is deep and worth exploring. Here are a few of our favorite fungi things.
Jody Guralnick, “Plants that Changed the World” (2021, oil and acrylic), 36 by 72 inches. PHOTO BY TONY PRIKRYL
While everyone else in Colorado is looking up at the big views, Aspen-based bio-artist Jody Guralnick is going in for close-ups of the forest floor. Her work is an invitation to discover and explore the rich, interdependent life she finds there.
Guralnick developed a fascination for the fungi kingdom after participating in a workshop with mushroom guru Paul Stamets on a remote British Columbia island years ago. When she takes her microscope into the forest to study what she calls the “wood wide web,” indulging what her husband calls her “rapture of the tiny,” it’s like putting on a mask and going snorkeling. “On the forest floor, a world is revealed to you,” Guralnick says. “It’s just this incredible sense of so much life, and it’s all communicating with each other.”
Guralnick’s multidimensional bio-art combines taxonomy with painting and sculpture, using dissection and classification to show the interconnected beauty of mushrooms, lichens and molds and their connection to the human world. “By using both the tools of science and art, I hope to explicate a time and place in three dimensions, a time and place that is rapidly undergoing climatic change, social change, change at the human level and change planetwide,” she writes in a statement for her mycology-themed exhibit, on view at Aspen’s Skye Gallery in August. For the summer show, she plans to include pieces from her show at the Denver Botanic Gardens’ new Freyer-Newman Center last winter as well as close-ups of mushroom spores and caps.
By highlighting the spaces humans share with microorganisms, Guralnick is ultimately encouraging stewardship. “I feel strongly as an artist that my voice can be used to talk about climate change,” she says. “You can’t protect something you haven’t even noticed.” In the climate change conversation, the more charismatic species like polar bears get all the attention, but tiny things like lichen and fungi deserve to be heard, Guralnick says. “These tinies are so important. They just don’t have curb appeal for everyone.” jodyguralnick.com; skyegalleryaspen.com/jody-guralnick
Vegans, rejoice! Stella McCartney, a luxury designer who’s never used leather, feathers, fur or animal skin, has created the first garments from lab-grown Mylo mushroom leather. For this sporty black bustier and utilitarian trousers, lifelong vegetarian Stella McCartney combined recycled nylon with panels of Mylo, a sustainable, cruelty-free leather alternative made from mycelium by Bolt Threads. “[The garments] embody our shared commitment with Bolt Threads to innovate a kinder fashion industry—one that sees the birth of beautiful, luxurious materials as opposed to the deaths of our fellow creatures and planet,” McCartney says.
Hermès Victoria bag in Sylvania, made of Fine Mycelium, H plume canvas and Evercalf calfskin. PHOTO BY COPPI BARBIERI/COURTESY OF HERMÈS
Stella McCartney launches the world’s first-ever garments made from Mylo mycelium leather. PHOTO COURTESY OF STELLA MCCARTNEY
Soft yet substantial—and remarkably like leather—Mylo is cultivated under lab conditions using mulch, air and water to mimic the forest floor terroir, where mycelial root systems thrive. Bolt Threads has allowed only a handful of brands, including Stella McCartney, Adidas and Lululemon, access to the next-generation material. In 2018, Stella McCartney created the first product using Mylo, a prototype of its Falabella bag.
“I believe the Stella community should never have to compromise luxury and desirability for sustainability,” McCartney says. “Mylo allows us to make that a reality.”
For now, the brand’s creations are still in prototype, but they provide a glimpse at the fungal future of fashion. Dan Widmaier, CEO and founder of Bolt Threads, says the Stella McCartney garments mark “tangible progress toward large-scale production where Mylo can make a significant positive impact on our planet.” stellamccartney.com
In an exclusive collaboration between the French luxury house Hermès and San Francisco-based biotech firm MycoWorks, Sylvania, an entirely new type of premium natural material, has been developed. In the MycoWorks facility, mycelium is grown through a patented process called Fine Mycelium. In nature, mycelium is the fine network of threads forming the vegetative part of the organism that produces mushrooms. It’s one of the earth’s most powerful agents of regeneration and carbon sequestration.
The MycoWorks Fine Mycelium sheets are then shipped to France, where Hermès tanners further refine their strength and durability and Hermès craftspeople transform it into the material known as Sylvania. The Hermès Victoria bag, set to debut at the end of the year, is the first object to be made from Fine Mycelium. It pairs Sylvania with H plume canvas and Evercalf calfskin.
“Hermès and MycoWorks share common values of craftsmanship, quality, innovation and patience,” MycoWorks CEO Matt Scullin said in a statement. “A collaboration three years in the making, Sylvania is the result of a shared vision for growing the future of materials and a quest to unlock new design possibilities.” Cherry Creek Shopping Center, 3000 E. First Ave., Denver, 304.388.0700, hermes.com
Mushrooms are sprouting up everywhere. PHOTO BY TONY SEBASTIAN/UNSPLASH
Three years ago, when Will Harris was the executive chef at Denver’s Linger, mushroom farmer Tom Bailey walked in with a crate of chestnut, lion’s mane and blue oyster mushrooms from his Eukarya Farm in Fort Lupton. It launched a full-blown obsession. “They were the most incredible, pristine species I’ve ever seen,” says Harris, now the executive chef for Wildflower at the Life House hotel in LoHi. “I never knew mushrooms could be this large, this flavorful—like a piece of meat, really.”
Harris knew how to make the most of classics like morels and chanterelles, but he’d never been completely satisfied with how they turned out. They would come in caked in dirt, and by the time he’d washed and cooked them, they’d be floppy. “When Tom came in with these perfect mushrooms that never have to be washed because they’re grown in a millet and amaranth substrate, it changed everything,” he says.
Some of Harris’ favorite techniques include steaming chestnut mushrooms in their own juices, then cooking them over hot coals, and cooking trumpets sous vide before grilling them. While Wildflower was closed during the pandemic lockdown last fall, he played around with preservation techniques for the mushrooms, which kept arriving from the farm even when diners didn’t. When the tiny restaurant reopened, chefs went through 15 pounds a week of mushroom conserva, a jamlike substance made with vinegar, olive oil and herbs. Looking forward, summer menus will feature favorites such as mushroom yakitori and Colorado porcini served four ways.
“The big takeaway for chefs and people who like to cook is that first you have to be able to find good mushrooms,” Harris says.
“You can start with portobellos and crimini—and the obsession will grow from there. The higher the quality, the less you need to do. Like a piece of steak or fish, mushrooms should be treated with equal gratitude and respect.” 3638 Navajo St., Denver, 720.706.6615, lifehousehotels.com
Founded in 2015 at the University of Colorado-Boulder, the Psychedelic Club of Denver takes its name from the infamous Harvard Psychedelic Club, a series of LSD experiments led by rogue professor Timothy Leary in the 1960s.
The Denver club, which has grown into a network of 29 chapters across the country, is not about consuming psychedelics, but rather about redefining our cultural relationship with them. Members meet regularly around Denver to listen to guest speakers and discuss topics like the corporatization of psychedelics. Denver voters’ decision to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms in 2019 and increasing acceptance by mainstream medicine are changing the face of membership, says Kess Hirsheimer, president of the club’s Denver chapter. “We’re seeing a lot more people interested in psilocybin as an alternative form of medicine,” she says, “more often than not, as an alternative to antidepressants.” facebook.com/denverpsychedelicclub
Anna Weatherley plate. PHOTO COURTESY OF ANNA WEATHERLEY
This elegant Hungarian porcelain hors d’oeuvre plate is part of Anna Weatherley’s Forest Mushroom collection. Highly trained master painters in Weatherley’s studio use a classical freehand technique with fine shading and small brush strokes to achieve detailed renderings that are inspired by 17th and 18th century botanical illustrations. Each piece is signed by the artist. Look for the plates at Denver’s White Peacock. 2440 E. Third Ave., Denver, 303.954.8333, whitepeacockdenver.com
Dutch designer Iris van Herpen’s spring-summer 2021 collection, titled Roots of Rebirth, drew inspiration from Merlin Sheldrake’s book Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds. When it debuted digitally at Paris Haute Couture Week last January, models walked the runway in shimmering ethereal gowns accompanied by computer animations of swirling spores. The collection includes 21 looks that evoke roots and mushrooms, ranging from the literal (a dress that fans out to look like a chanterelle) to the evocative (intricately pleated glass-organza branching out from a handembroidered bodice with a mosaic of fine-edged gills).
“During such rarefied times, the designer explores a symbiosis of high technology and the artisanal craftsmanship of couture, through a collection that references the intricacy of fungi and the entanglement of life that breathes beneath our feet,” read the collection’s notes. Iris van Herpen’s lacy runway looks draw insight from the miraculous yet fragile web of fine threads of mycelium found in the natural world. It’s all about interconnectedness. irisvanherpen.com
The shape-shifting silhouettes from Iris van Herpen were inspired by the enigmatic world of fungi. PHOTO BY GIO STAIANO/COURTESY OF IRIS VAN HERPEN
With a theme of Reconnecting, the Telluride Mushroom Festival, now in its 41st year, returns Aug. 18 to 22 with a lineup of speakers that includes Colorado State University professor Camille Stevens-Rumann, an expert on using fungi for forest and fire restoration, and British Columbia scientist Andrew MacKinnon, who will explore the history of psychedelics. Expect the ever-popular Mushroom People Parade and a completely foraged dinner by Katrina Blair of Durango’s Turtle Lake Refuge. tellurideinstitute.org
In her 20s, Amanda Chantal Bacon used a combination of diet, mindfulness and spiritual wisdom to treat her Hashimoto’s disease and the debilitating side effects from a lifetime of taking prescribed pharmaceuticals. Through her company Moon Juice, she’s on a mission to share what she learned in her healing journey.
Bacon’s first humble Moon Juice store in Venice Beach offered adaptogen-rich treats such as mini chaga doughnuts and chocolate milkshakes with reishi and ashwagandha, as well as cold-pressed juices and tonics. Now with three locations in the Los Angeles metro area and a boujee clientele, Moon Juice also sells skincare products and jars of “dust,” adaptogenic herb and mushroom blends that are wildly popular within the supplements market.
Moon Juice’s immune-supporting SuperPower is a blend of vitamin D extracted from button mushrooms grown on an Amish farm, beta-glucans extracted from organic reishi mushrooms, liposomal vitamin C and chelated zinc. “There’s no disputing these four things are good for your immune system,” Bacon says. Sephora, 500 16th St., Unit 156, Denver, 303.825.1088, sephora.com
Moon Juice uses mushrooms to support immunity. PHOTO COURTESY OF MOON JUICE