Traditionally made leather is a staple material of the fashion industry, but it unfortunately comes with animal suffering and a massive environmental impact, that’s rarely addressed. Luckily for us who love the appearance and durability that leather offers, there’s a wide range of completely animal-free options available.
Many think of vegan leather as solely synthetic materials, with PVC becoming a thing of the past and majority moving towards a more eco-friendly material known as PU. It’s worth noting that cow skin leather has an environmental impact that’s more than double of synthetic leather. However synthetics are far from the only vegan leather option available, there’s now some amazing plant-based material innovations being created! We can have the feel and luxury of leather without the negative toll on the environment and animal lives.
Here’s five leather alternatives that are all made from plants!
1. Pineapple Leather
Piñatex created a material made from pineapple leaf fibre, utilising what would otherwise be waste. This vegan leather alternative also supports pineapple farmers to earn additional income, since they can sell the excess of the plant that would usually be thrown away. With a unique natural texture, Piñatex feels similar to traditional leather, while also being durable and water resistant. This material innovation is quickly becoming a popular cruelty-free and eco-friendly alternative for a wide range of products like bags, jackets, wallets, watches and shoes. Brands featuring Piñatex across their product range include Ahimsa Collective, Nae Footwear,Time IV Change, and soon to be Kinds of Grace with their first Piñatex collection launching soon.
2. Cactus Leather
Two Mexican entrepreneurs developed this exciting new vegan leather, made from cactus! They select the mature leaves for the raw materials, without damaging the cactus itself. It’s produced without the use of toxic chemicals and requires very little water in comparison to the mass amount needed for animal-based leather. The thick skin makes it a durable material with a similar texture to what you know and love about leather. It’s the perfect alternative for both environmental sustainability and aesthetic appeal, with the final product being so realistic that you’d never guess it’s made from plants! You can learn more about cactus leather on their website Desserto.
3. Apple Leather
One of the latest vegan material innovations is shockingly, apple leather! Developed by the company Frumat, it’s made from the cores and skins of apples that have been discarded from the food industry. These are puréed and then spread on a sheet and dehydrated, until all the moisture is gone and what was apple waste turns into a leathery sheet that can be combined with polyurethane to create an apple-based vegan leather. These boots are one of the apple-based designs by the French vegan shoe company Good Guys Don’t Wear Leather.
4. Grape Leather
From the creator of your favorite Friday night drink – the grape, comes what may just become your favorite plant-based leather. Grape leather is made from the byproducts of winemaking, such as grape seeds and peels. The final material comes in all the different hues of wine and can be printed to result in exotic animal-like textures, from snake skin to croc skin! It’s created by an Italian based technology company called Vegea, who have collaborated with H&M to bring the material to their stores. Hopefully in the future it’ll be available from a range of brands.
5. Corn Leather
Another brand new innovation in the fashion industry is corn leather, a biodegradable and soft, but extremely durable material. It’s only being used by a handful of brands so far, one of them being the luxurious handbag label Alexandra K – besides their beautiful corn leather range, they also use other completely vegan materials, which you can check out on their materials page!
It’s wonderful for the environment and animals that new materials are constantly being developed, are always increasing in quality and gaining popularity among conscious designers and consumers! There’s plenty of new material innovations that haven’t been listed, so keep an eye out and be open to try these options that are kinder towards animals and our planet.