Miu Miu’s micro-mini isn’t the only icon of the Y2K renaissance. Along with the return of blinged-out flip phones, chainmail tops and inch-thick lipgloss, another ubiquitous Noughties symbol has reared its charming red-and-white head.
In the past couple of years, we’ve seen mushrooms cropping up everywhere, from Rodarte’s shroom-print slip dresses, Bella Hadid’s Frasier Sterling Magic Mushroom earrings and Saweetie and Jhené Aiko’s fairy-toadstool wonderland ‘Back to the Streets’ video, through to their appearance in the neon knitwear of Sarah Burton’s fungus-focused AW22 collection for Alexander McQueen. The obsession is real.
More than just a motif, though, in 2022 shroom culture has developed into something much bigger, with fungi now pushing up their little gilled umbrellas all over popular culture. Ravers are ditching amphetamines and turning back to mushies for a night of hallucinatory highs. We’re microdosing before meetings and handing out little vials of liberty caps as party favors.
They’ve also drawn a crowd of infatuated disciples in the art world, with photographer Phyllis Ma launching her Mushrooms & Friends zine. Meanwhile, Giancarlo Mattioli’s original ‘Nesso’ toadstool-shaped lamps are suddenly fetching thousands of pounds on eBay. Harry Styles even dedicated an entire collection in his Pleasing cosmetics line to them.
So, what’s brought about the mushroom makeover? Research into their positive effect on brain health, and books such as Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life, which makes the complex science easily digestible, have apprised us of their many superpowers. And that, combined with the widespread well-being and sustainability zeitgeist, has led to their cultural deification. Beyond the alluring psychedelia of it all, we’ve begun to understand that mushrooms – and the subterranean mycelium network of which fungi are the above-ground fruit – might actually hold the keys to our future.
As well as drinking adaptogen tea and swapping charcuterie boards for chanterelles, in the fashion world, we’re looking to mushroom technology to change the industry’s relationship with the planet. As Stella McCartney says, mushroom fabrics, ‘have the potential to ultimately replace traditional leather… and provide hope for the future of our planet.’
McCartney, who has been investing in mycelium since 2016, launched her first mushroom-made handbag this June, with Hermès hot on her heels. And although Sarah Burton is yet to swap cowhide for this earthy alternative, she has stated her intention to do so. As mushrooms push their way into our lives, helping us party like its 1969, illuminating our interiors and overhauling our mental health, their infiltration of the once-impenetrable luxury market feels like destiny.