From fashion to art, everyone is crazy about mushrooms

An increasingly sought-after plant resource, the mushroom has become the raw material that artists and designers are looking for with great interest. Here we explain why

Anika Yi.  Metaspore.  Exhibition view at Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan 2022. Courtesy the artist & Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan.  Photo Agostino Osio
Anika Yi. Metaspore. Exhibition view at Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan 2022. Courtesy the artist & Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan. Photo Agostino Osio

With an attitude that someone might have called shamanic – actually taking advantage of the benevolence of those who allow me (seemingly) senseless raids on this paper – in last August’s issue of Tribune Magazine I said to The hidden order. The secret life of mushrooms, the volume published in 2020 by the English biologist Merlin Sheldrake (he yes, in this regard, truly shamanic). Previously (2015, in the Italian edition only in 2021) the extraordinary was published The mushroom at the end of the world superlative (I’m not categorical: it’s true) Anna Tsing.
In second place in the ranking established by ArtReview To designate the most influential figures in the art world in 2021, this American anthropologist of Asian origin, in her book of more than 400 pages, makes no reference to art. But his metaphorical tale regarding the collection of matsutake is so full of implications (The possibility of living in the ruins of capitalism is the subtitle) to have become a workbook for anyone – whether bioartist or not – to make art using their brain.

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing - The mushroom at the end of the world (Keller, Rovereto 2021)
Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing – The mushroom at the end of the world (Keller, Rovereto 2021)

FROM ANICKA YI TO ALEXANDER MCQUEEN

In February this year, the Korean-American exhibition at the Pirelli HangarBicocca arrived Anicka Yi, which for some time has explicitly referred to the Ching and its mushrooms. Once again: on March 16, at the end of the cycle of fashion shows dedicated to the fall-winter 2022-23 women’s collections, Sarah Barton (for the Alexander McQueen brand) in a Brooklyn warehouse piled up tons of mulch obtained from from fallen trees on the edge of a walkway thus inundated with the smell of peat, while the chirping of birds and the buzzing of insects played through the loudspeakers, before the soundtrack set in at the rate of A forest by The Cure. The chronicles tell that, behind the scenes, the creator made insistent references to mycelium, the underground fungal network dubbed the “wide strip of wood“naturally: the one that connects trees together, creates the layer useful for plant growth and transfers nutrients and other minerals from tree to tree.

For fashion, with its gigantic problems related to the sustainability of its productions, the road seems traced“.

The reference to Tsing mushrooms and the “compost” from Donna Haraway (Chthulucene, 2016, trans. this. 2019) is obvious. Sarah Burton also sent brightly colored mushroom dresses down the runway, representing their mycelium with long skeins of silk fringe. Although “vegetable leather” was not used in the collection, which can now be obtained from mushrooms, the designer specifies that with her team, she is going in this direction: replacing the skin of cow or other exotic materials (snakes or fish farming), while already from this collection 85% of the materials come from recycling.
For fashion, with its gigantic problems related to the sustainability of its productions, the road seems traced. Stella McCartney already in March 2021 he presented the scholarship Mylo made from mycelium. Even Hermès has made a “vegetable leather” bag from mushrooms: Hermès! The super-luxury brand which, only the previous year, had invested significant sums in the breeding of crocodiles in Australia…
The now unstoppable mushroom invades our imagination.

Aldo Premoli

Article published in Artribune Magazine n°65

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Aldo Premoli

Born in Milan, he lives in Noto and Cernobbio. And then New York, where his children work. Between 1989 and 2000, he directed “L’Uomo Vogue”. In 2001 he founded Apstudio and provides advice to Italian and foreign companies and industry associations. He has lectured on three continents for Ice, Anci and Aimpes and curated exhibitions that bridge the gap between art and fashion. Between 2013 and 2014, he directed “Tar magazine”, a review of art, science and ethics. He is currently a blogger for “Huffington Post”, a columnist for “Linkiesta” and director of the hyper local platform “SudStyle”. Independent curator of exhibitions that bridge the gap between art and science. In Sicily he founded “Mediterraneo Sicilia Europa onlus”, in Lombardy “La Cernobbina Art Studio”. He works as a visiting professor for the academies of the north as well as the south of the Peninsula.

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