Leather. It’s a tough one. When moving to a vegan lifestyle, you don’t want to be wearing – or carrying – the skin of another being, yet historically it’s been hard to replace. Cheap man-made synthetic materials anyone? We didn’t think so.
But the times they are a-changing and thanks to advancements in technology, championed by those innovators who understand the devastating effects leather production has on animal rights and the environment, we’re now seeing a range of cruelty free, sustainable, plant-based leathers entering the market.
Here’s a round-up of the most stylish materials and the brands that are leading the way.
1. APPLE LEATHER
Recently seen on the catwalk at Vegan Fashion Week in LA, apple leather was born out of a desire to reduce food waste. Using pulp from the cider process, apple leather can be sewn and coloured just like animal leather, but it’s 100% biodegradable, chemical free and mould resistant. Take a look at these gorgeous Frida shoes (with removable fringe) from leading luxury vegan shoe brand, Veerah. $328.
2. KRAFT PAPER FABRIC
AKA leather paper and Kraft-Tex, this rugged natural paper is biodegradable and made without any harmful substances. The best bit? It looks, feels and cuts like leather and washes like fabric. Bag designers are already getting in the act. Check out this Washable Kraft Paper Tote Bag in Coal by Kollab, $47.95 – designed to handle to whatever you throw at it, every single day.
3. COFFEE LEATHER
If there weren’t already enough ways to love coffee, we’ve just found another… repurposed and turned into leather. High end German sneaker brand nat-2 has launched its luxury vegan sneakers made from sustainable recycled coffee beans and plants. Despite the hefty price tag (around $700) they’re in hot demand. If you want to nab a pair, your best bet is to sign up to nat-2’s newsletter.
4. PINEAPPLE LEATHER
When Hugo Boss announces the launch of a pair of pineapple leather shoes, you know it’s heading for the mainstream. Otherwise known as Piñatex, made from the fibres of pineapple leaves, it’s a natural, chemical free, sustainably sourced material with a super-low environmental impact and its leather-like appearance has made it a hit with designers. We’re fans of this Piñatex Black Backpack by Maravillas, $249.
5. CORN LEATHER
Since launching in 2005, fashion brand Veja has been on the front foot seeking out sustainable raw materials. Now they’ve introduced something that’s got us very excited – corn leather. Yep, Veja has released the first sneakers made from corn waste and it looks and feels pretty much the same as real leather. Made from 50% waxed canvas and 50 per cent corn waste, the Campo White Pierre Nautico vegan sneakers are 63% biodegradable to boot.
6. MUSHROOM LEATHER
We’ve been talking about mushrooms for a while now –MuSkin and Mylo are two names associated with this alternative leather that looks and feels like suede. Its absence of toxins and bacteria make it a dream for anyone who suffers skin allergies. But so far it’s been elusive. So if you’re keen to support a new-to-market initiative, get behind The Driver Bag. Hailed as the worlds’ first commercially available product made from Mylo, its creators have started a Kickstarter page to get it to market.
OK so it’s not exactly new but we’re giving still a shout out to cork because it’s one of the most sustainable materials available. It also happens to be very durable, strong and waterproof, which is why designers are coming to the party and embracing it in so many different ways. We’re having a love-in with this Cork Canvas Tote Bay by The Sea, $89. And this gorgeous Chuchka Palms Yoga Mat, $79, which has anti-microbial properties to resist bacteria, germs and smell. Nice.
Main image courtesy of nat-2.