Jordan Medeiros — Week 14, Post 10
Modern design has brought about a breakthrough in the concept of the structural skin. Per the Industrial Revolution, structure and skin were separated, freeing the facade from the skeleton. Contemporary design has pushed the envelope on this idea even further, testing an expansive array of materials to redevelop the idea of skin and enclosure. Muskin, a vegan alternative to leather, is a byproduct of this revolution.
Created by the Italian manufacturer Grado Zero Espace, Muskin is an PETA-approved vegan alternative to conventional animal leather, harnessed from the head of a parasitic fungus called Phellinus ellipsoids that commonly grows atop trees in subtropical forests. In accordance with being entirely vegetable in nature, the material is manufactured without the use of toxins and chemicals, making it friendly to those with chemical sensitivity.
At the moment, Muskin is most commonly used in bags and hats for its leather suede-like texture, however, its material capacities provoke a more expansive usage. The material possesses the capabilities of being waterproofed, primarily through the usage of eco wax, but more importantly it is highly resistant to humidity with the ability to absorb moisture and release it in a timely fashion, much like a conventional fabric would. Given these material qualities, Muskin could expand to watches and shoe insoles, replacing animal-harming leathers or chemically-based insoles.
Muskin takes an environmentally conscious approach to material skin through discovering an alternative to animal leathers. While this is a critical step in alternative design conventions, it is crucial to remember the nature of this material. Phellinus ellipsoids is still of the environment meaning that responsible harvesting and consideration must take place before moderate usage and implantation of the material can take place. Even though it may be an invasive species, there is still a human footprint being placed on ecosystems and the environment. What are the implications of Muskin’s usage? Furthermore, is the harvesting of mushrooms still just? In other words, does sustainability, in this sense, mean the abandonment of one exploitation in favor of a new exploitation? How should this be mediated in favor of balance?