5 environmentally friendly alternatives to natural leather

Leather is a traditional material in history of clothing, and the critiques regarding its source are not new. Natural leather has a very heavy environmental and welfare impact - higher volume of production does not only mean more animals being killed, but also translates into crueler treatment for them during their lives. All of this made fashion industry to look for the sustainable solutions.

The latest alternatives to natural leather are being developed using biodegradable resources. Resources range from cork, wood, and mushrooms; to leaves and fruits of different plants like teak, pineapple or coconut for its water, including soy and kombucha tea! Incredible results are being achieved imitating leather - these materials do offer a solution regarding the origin and the environmental impact. This being said let us introduce you our 5 absolutely favourite environmentally friendly alternatives to natural leather.

1. Apple leather

Yes, we know, it sounds unbelievable but this is not a joke - a sustainable, ethical leather alternative made out of apples exists.

Using the cores and skins discarded from the industrial food industry, apples are puréed, spread on a solid sheet and dehydrated until almost all of the moisture has been removed. This purée turns into a flexible, leathery sheet that is then combined with Polyurethane to create the apple leather.

2. Cork

Cork is a natural material that is widely known for its usage in wine bottles, bulletin boards, and coasters. But only in recent years have people begun to start thinking about how to use cork in more innovative ways, for example, cork leather, used to make bags, wallets, and accessories in fashion.

The material comes from the bark of the Cork Oak, and is harvested without causing harm to the tree, thus it is 100% plant-based vegan textile. Moreover, there is no waste produced during extraction, processing, or production. The cork leather is completely recyclable, and can be ground and made into new material.

Some of the advantages of this so called cork leather are the lightness, water resistance, softness and quite lasting a lifetime.

Manufacturers are mostly using cork leather for handbags and shoes but the cork trend is getting bigger and many new products appear on the market.

3. Pinatex

Do you wonder what is Pinatex? Well - natural, sustainably-sourced, cruelty free - are the right words to be used in the description. Pinatex is an innovative natural textile made from waste pineapple leaf fibre. and is 100% eco friendly, vegan friendly and is also ethical in the sense that it gives pineapple farmers yet another source of income from their crops. The material feels like cowhide leather, is watertight and very durable. No wonder more and more shoe and bag brands are using it! You can see our selection of shoes made from Pinatex here.

shoes made from Pinatex

4. Wine leather (Grape)

Would you ever imagine wearing wine? Probably the answer is no, but you absolutely have to change your mind. Through an innovative production process, vegetable leather is produced from grape marc (shell, seeds and stems of the grape), which is recycled from the residues of the Italian wine industry. It uses neither water nor oil, is 100% sustainable and uses no chemical elements. Furthermore, it feels extremely soft and has a similar structure to real leather.

It comes in the natural hues of wine: blush, bordeaux, burgundy and so on. 

5. Mushroom leather

Another great alternative is a vegetable leather made from a particular mushroom and treated without using polluting substances. Mushroom leather (also known as muskin) is completely made from the cap of Phellinus ellipsoideus, a gigantic, inedible mushroom species native to subtropical forests. It’s similar to suede to the touch; it may have a soft to cork-like texture.

Muskin is also a thermal insulator that absorbs damp and releases it immediately, thus limiting bacterial proliferation. It is transpiring, water-repellent and non-toxic. Basically, it can be used to manufacture all the products that come into contact with the skin, because it doesn’t trigger allergic reactions.

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