At MONC, we’re obsessed with material innovation. This means we keep our ears close to the ground for interesting news in this space. When developing our new mycelium packaging, we read a lot of articles about fungi, and soon enough we came across Helena Elston’s work featured on Dezeen. With much of her work centring around wearable mycelium textiles and combating textile waste through decomposers such as fungi, we were keen to reach out and explore a creative collaboration.

After connecting over video call and having a fascinating chat about her work, we wanted to see what results would be possible with our tote bags and even some of our old broken bio acetate spectacle frames. We sent her a package to experiment with in her Brooklyn Studio where she could inoculated them through her own unique process, resulting in stunningly complex mycelium growths, which will continue to break down the materials and eventually, help them to decompose.


We asked Helena to explain this creative collaboration and share her journey, from studying in London to developing her own mycelium growing techniques and working out of her studio in New York.


Introduce yourself and your work


I’m Helena Elston, a regenerative textile and fashion designer, mycologist, sustainable thinker, alchemist, and innovator. My work centers around incorporating mycelium as a decomposer and applique in my hand-sewn garments, crafted from discarded materials. My journey with mycelium began in London, where I earned my master's degree in textile design from the Royal College of Art. I then established my own sustainable design studio in West London, and my work has been featured in exhibitions and publications such as Dezeen, National Geographic, and Residence Magazine. Now based in New York City, I continue to collaborate and create mycelial garments in my Brooklyn studio!


What inspired you to start working with mycelium?

Before moving to London, I worked in New York City's fashion industry, where I became acutely aware of the immense waste generated by the industry, which left me feeling deeply disconnected from the Earth. Acknowledging that textiles are among the top waste producers globally, I realised that there was an untapped space I needed to explore, even if it meant starting with a small sustainable project. My years in the UK were transformative, as I immersed myself in developing sustainable materials, researching waste networks, and integrating into ecological systems- these experiences have been my greatest inspirations.



What is the main goal/ vision for your work?

One of my long term innovative material projects, Fungal-Integrated Garments (F.I.G), includes a series of wearable and sustainable designs made from local waste products like discarded textiles, garments and coffee sacks, which are manipulated through a unique mycelium process. The mycelial grown pieces range from complete garment decomposition, appliqué on waste garments, and seaming alternatives for thread. My main vision is for these designs to reflect innovative ways in which we alter fast fashion and safely decompose textiles, one of our biggest waste products.


What were your expectations when you set out to create your first mycelium garment and how did it turn out?

Creating my first mycelium garment was such an exhilarating, yet complicated journey. I envisioned a way to make clothing both wearable and biodegradable, inspired by the aesthetics of designer Hussein Chalayan and the material innovations from companies like Ecovative.



The process involved countless experiments and numerous failures with various mycelium materials, biomaterial developments, and garment designs. However, those moments of success, when months of learning and growth finally culminated in beautiful creations, were truly rewarding.



What is your favourite piece from your FI project?

The embroidered deadstock jumpsuit I created is one of my favourite pieces from my FI collection- mainly because I loved crafting it by hand to then watch as mycelium consumed the materials. The colors, textures, and patterns formed by the intricacies of mycelium are what make this piece so fascinating to me.


Can you share any small insights into your processes?

The mycelium garments undergo many processes before they reach their final state. I source fabrics from local businesses, deadstock, and scrap companies. I use the fabrics to patterncut, drape, and sew together an entirely new garment or accessory. Once wearable, I put it through a mycelium growth process where the mycelium has a few weeks to decompose or applique onto the materials. Depending on the materials, the garment can either be decomposed completely or dried out to be a wearable mycelium garment, contributing to a more circular fashion ecosystem.


What do you love the most about the outcome?

Once a piece is finished, I am always so captivated by the intricacies of mycelium and the control it has over the clothing. It's a beautiful system that spreads beneath our feet, responsible for decomposing waste, generating food, contributing to new material development, and nourishing ecosystems, amongst many other roles! While most fashion brands experimenting with mycelium focus solely on creating new materials, it's important to acknowledge that many of these companies aren't addressing the waste generated by their own systems, which contribute significantly to our global waste. My aim is different—I strive to repurpose fashion waste in a constructive and regenerative manner, rather than simply introducing new materials. Why not harness the materials already saturating our world and transform them with mycelium, the ultimate agent of transformation?



Experimenting with our bio acetate glasses is new for you, how did you go about this and what have been the results so far?

Experimenting with the bio acetate glasses was a challenging yet enlightening experience! I subjected the glasses to multiple acetone baths and sanded them down to their base material. After a month of mycelium growth, they began developing a mycelium applique and dense sculptural block. It will take a few more weeks of mycelium growth to determine if any significant decomposition occurs!


Anything else you want to share with our audience?

Developing collaborations like this one is so crucial to our ecological futures! Such partnerships can pave the way for beautiful and innovative solutions that sustainably benefit multiple industries.