Apr 26, 2023
The 2023 ANDAM fashion competition’s Innovation Prize, first introduced in 2017 and now in its sixth edition, was awarded to Sqim, an Italian company specialized in bio-fabricated materials made from mycelium, the roots of mushrooms. Two other finalists were also recognised this year: Materra, which has developed a tracing system for the farming practices with which fibres like cotton are sourced, guaranteeing the fibres’ sustainability; and Idelam, a company whose technology, developed by CNRS researchers, makes it possible to separate cleanly and quickly materials that are glued together, for example in footwear, making them easier to recycle.
Sqim was founded in 2015 in Inarzo, near Varese, north of Milan, and is led by Maurizio Montalti, president and head of R&D, and CEO Stefano Babbini. The company explores the potential of mycelium-related technologies, developing new materials that can be utilised in a variety of sectors. After starting out with Mogu, a company that produces acoustic panels for the interiors design and ecological construction sector, Sqim launched ephea, a family of new materials ideally suited for the fashion industry.
“We work with low-value waste and residue from other sectors, like the agricultural and manufacturing industries, and use these organic materials as food for our processes based on fungal fermentation. Our impact on the planet is negligible compared to that of traditional production methods, notably in terms of water consumption, energy use, land use and CO2 emissions,” Maurizio Montalti told FashionNetwork.com.
“Our goal is to have a real positive impact in the materials production sector, demonstrating that sustainable materials and products can be manufactured without compromising their quality, aesthetics and performance. We want to help trigger a fundamental change that is extremely urgent,” he added.
As indicated in a press release, ephea is “a unique class of bio-fabricated materials made from pure mycelium – the first of its kind to be cultivated in pure form, without using contaminating chemicals throughout the growth process and ensuring consistently optimal quality.” The material was introduced for the first time on the market at the end of 2022, with a maxi hooded coat made with ephea exclusively for Balenciaga.
Ephea is often compared to leather, but it is actually an entirely new material, alternative to leather. “Ephea is not intended to replace leather, a noble material that will most likely continue to exist on its own. It’s something different, a whole new class of material offering unprecedented opportunities,” said Montalti.
Sqim is currently the only European company active in this segment, and the only one on the market able to supply the highest quality of mycelium-based materials for industrial use. Sqim develops a fully homogeneous raw material 100% based on mycelium that can be used in transformation processes, such as those of tanneries, morphing into new products suitable for luxury applications, among others in ready-to-wear, accessories, footwear and the automotive industry.
Sqim is chiefly working with the Kering group. The ANDAM Innovation Prize, endowed with a €100,000 purse, is expected to give the Italian company international recognition and enable it to accelerate its industrialisation.
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