What a great time it is to be vegan. Not only was veganism predicted to be the biggest food trend for 2018, fashion has jumped on the plant-based bandwagon and is doing its bit to save the planet, too. Rejoice!

With an increased spotlight on animal welfare, ethical and environmental concerns of our clothes seem to be soaring. We couldn’t be happier.

Not only have we seen amazing advancements in the quality, availability and wearability of faux fur, leather is getting a kick to the kerb, too. It’s about time!

Until recently, the main alternative to leather for shoes and accessories was man-made synthetic. Sure, you could buy a pair of shoes and be confident that no animal was harmed in the process but given the questionable lifespan of materials used there was always the environmental impact to consider.

But that’s all set to change, thanks to this trio of thrilling new fabrics that we predict will influence the next generation of materials and design.

1.  Piñatex®

Created using the fibres of pineapple leaves, Piñatex® is a natural, sustainably-sourced vegan material that has a super-low environmental impact compared to other textile crops. Unlike traditional leather production, Piñatex® does not involve the use of harmful chemicals – not a one! As a by-product of the pineapple harvest, no additional environmental resources are required to produce it.

And if that’s not reason enough to feel-good, its use also creates an additional income stream for farming communities. With its leather-like appearance, Piñatex® is now being used by designers for everything from footwear and fashion accessories, through to furnishing and automotive upholstery. Flexible and soft, it’s also very durable and offers a wonderfully sustainable alternative to leather.

2. MuSkin
AKA Mushroom Leather, MuSkin is a vegan, eco-friendly textile made from mushrooms. While it looks and feels extremely suede-like, it actually has a cork-like composition and as such is able to absorb and release moisture. It’s treated with eco-wax, which ensures its waterproof – another bonus. Its absence of toxic substances and limited bacteria proliferation (meaning it doesn’t trigger allergic reactions), makes MuSkin perfect for products that sit close to the skin. Think shoes, hats, inserts and even furniture. We love it!

3. Zoa
Sustainable and cruelty-free, Zoa is a lab-grown (bio-fabricated) leather. Animal-free collagen is grown and then used to create a bio-leather material which is tanned and finished with an “ecologically mindful process”. While it’s absolutely a potential game changer when it comes to meeting the growing consumer demand for cruelty-free, sustainable leather, it does unfortunately raise some ethical questions around genetics and ownership of the animal genome. However, one thing is certain: as consumers grow more aware of what’s involved in the production and manufacturing of leather, this demand to “do better” is not simply some passing fad.

By Melissa Hobbs, The Vegan Company.