5 leather alternatives that should put an end to animal cruelty!
Leather and fur have long been the epitome of luxury in the world of fashion, accessories and furniture. Recently, however, public opinion has begun to change with growing awareness of the cruelty of factory farming and the number of resources it consumes and the amount of carbon emitted. Now vegan leather alternatives are increasingly in demand.
In response, major fashion houses like Gucci, Burberry, Ralph Lauren and Vivienne Westwood decided to boycott fur. 2018 was the first time that the material was not used by a single designer at London Fashion Week.
It should also be remembered that a number of chemicals such as formaldehyde, cyanide and chromium are used in the tanning and dyeing of leather, which can be dangerous to both people and the environment.
Leather alternatives made from plants and food waste
So far, however, most luxury brands like Chanel, Prada and Versace have only banned leather that comes from certain exotic animals like crocodiles, snakes and kangaroos.
For this reason, a group of young designers and start-ups are hoping to accelerate the abandonment of animal leather by developing compelling alternatives that do not use the usual environmentally harmful petroleum-based plastics such as polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
In the following we have summarized 5 vegan leather alternatives to draw attention to these sustainable and ethical substitutes for animal leather. From vegan pineapple leather to a leather alternative made from shells – with their properties, these inventions are in no way inferior to animal and artificial leather.
Pineapple anam piñatex
The British raw materials company Ananas Anam, founded in 2013, was one of the first to bring a vegetable leather alternative to market. They developed Piñatex, an animal-friendly alternative to leather made from pineapple waste.
The material uses fine cellulose fibers extracted from pineapple leaves – which are considered an agricultural by-product that is often burned or rotted. An estimated 40,000 tons of this pineapple waste is generated worldwide each year. These fibers are then mixed with polylactic acid (PLA), a bioplastic made from corn, and felted into a nonwoven fabric that can be used for clothing, shoes or furniture.
Piñatex was developed by designer Carmen Hijosa who has worked in the leather goods industry for the past 15 years. While looking for alternatives to leather in the Philippines, Hijosa discovered the possibilities of pineapple fiber and worked with local weavers to try to convert it into fabric. In 2016 she received the Arts Foundation Prize for Material Innovation.
While many vegetable leather alternatives are still in the prototype phase, Piñatex has already been processed into commercially available products by Hugo Boss and the Canadian brand Native Shoes.
Tômtex by Uyen Tran
Vietnamese designer Uyen Tran has developed a flexible biomaterial called Tomtex, a leather alternative made from food waste that can be embossed with a variety of patterns.
The name tôm, which means “shrimp,” refers to the discarded clams from seafood that are mixed with coffee grounds to make the fabric.
According to Tran, the material is very robust and at the same time soft enough to be sewn by hand or by machine.
Up to eight million tons of fish shell waste and 18 million tons of coffee grounds waste are generated by the global food and beverage industry each year.
The New York-based designer works with a supplier in Vietnam who collects shrimp, crab, and lobster shells, as well as fish scales, to extract a biopolymer called chitin. This is found in the exoskeleton of insects and crustaceans, which makes them tough and pliable at the same time. In combination with used coffee from Trans’s own kitchen and from local cafés, this forms the basis of Tômtex.
The mixture is colored with natural pigments like charcoal, coffee, and ocher to create a variety of color options.
Tômtex can imitate any structural surface such as snakeskin or crocodile skin, so there are endless possibilities for designing patterns. The material is of course waterproof because it has a beeswax coating.
According to Tran, when a Tômtex product has reached the end of its useful life, it can either be recycled or biodegraded.
Mylo from Bolt Threads
The first vegan leather alternative that is on the way to mainstream is Mylo from US biotech company Bolt Threads.
The material is made from mycelium – the thread-like cells of a fungus or bacterium, the fine strands of which spread out in all directions to form a cohesive network. The mycelial cells are grown in less than two weeks at controlled temperature and humidity. According to reports, the production of mycelium uses significantly less water than the production of animal leather and at the same time emits fewer greenhouse gases.
Large luxury fashion houses such as Stella McCartney, Adidas and the Gucci parent company Kering have invested in increasing the production of the material and want to bring the first mass-produced products from Mylo onto the market next year.
Lino leather from Don Kwaning
The designer Don Kwaning developed a new material called Lino Leather in 2018. In a series of material experiments, the Eindhoven graduate processed linoleum, which is commonly used as flooring, into various types of leather. Kwaning suggests that it could be used in furniture design and upholstery.
A first version mimics the textured, wrinkled finish of rumen leather, which is made from cow stomachs, while the second version looks more like saddle leather.
In fact, linoleum is made from linseed oil mixed with a filler like ground cork. The compound is then applied to a fabric base such as canvas and can be tinted to create different colored surfaces.
Palm leather from Tjeerd Veenhoven
The Dutch designer Tjeerd Veenhoven also experimented with plant fibers to create a vegan leather. For his leather alternatives, he used the leaves of the areca palm. You can read more about this novel material in this article.
Also check out these interesting fish skin clothing!