Leather is a complicated matter in the ethical and sustainable fashion community.
While many reject animal-based leather due to the cruelty and greenhouse gas emissions involved in the production process, others scrutinize many of its alternatives for being made from plastic.
Luckily, as innovation in the plant-based leather domain progresses, numerous fashion brands are creating stunning leather pieces that are good for the animals and good for the planet.
Many of the brands combine plant-based materials with an addition of polyurethane (PU leather) – a much less damaging form of plastic – to achieve their best results.
As innovation progresses, hopefully, they will be able to make their pieces fully from plants, without the need for PU additions.
The list includes mostly fully vegan brands but also features a few labels introducing plant-based leather alternatives alongside their usual animal-based leather ranges. (Check out our guide to vegan leather too – it’s super handy).
Will’s Vegan Store makes faux leather pieces, above all shoes, from cereal crops. These are combined with PU leather.
However, they are progressing towards abandoning plastic altogether and are experimenting with other purely plant-based materials such as eucalyptus bark.
All of the products Will’s Vegan Store sells are Ecolabel and PETA certified and the soles of the shoes are created from natural rubber.
Plastic-free shipping and a carbon-neutral supply chain are another two things making Will’s Vegan Store a successful sustainable company!
One of their most exciting innovations is the use of corn leather, which comprises a growing share of the company’s offering.
In 2014, the company was even awarded the German PETA’s Vegan Fashion Award for best women’s handbag.
If you are a lover of a fashion statement and have a bit of a bigger spending budget for your clothing, you’re going to fall in love with Altiir.
The company uses Pinatex – one of the most commonly used plant-based leathers, made from pineapple fibres, with metallic finishes, to craft their one of a kind pieces.
The company offers a range of moto jackets in a variety of colours, including a statement gold finish as well as a classic black. The advantage of using Pinatex is that it moulds to your body over time, which results in a jacket that feels like it’s been custom made!
We are not abandoning the wonderful material that is Pinatex quite yet – Ahimsa Collective uses it to craft some of their beautiful handbags and purses. However, alongside pineapple leather, the company also uses paper leather for a few of their pieces.
The brand is very transparent about everything it does and aims to create handbags that are good for the planet, instead of damaging it. Their handbags can be dressed up or dressed down, which makes them truly versatile.
The Los Angeles based brand Svala also uses Pinatex in some of their handbags, alongside many other planet-friendly materials such as cork, organic cotton or recycled polyester from old plastic bottles.
They were one of the first brands to pioneer Pinatex in their range and many have followed suit since then.
However, their cork collection is also worth a highlight – while it may not look like your traditional leather, it has many of the same properties but a much lower environmental footprint!
Good Guys Don’t Wear Leather is a brand that has experimented with a variety of plant-based options for crafting their shoes.
One of these alternatives is a zero emissions vegan leather created from cereals and vegetable seeds coming from no food agriculture.
Another innovation they are experimenting with is apple leather, which uses industrial apple waste which would otherwise go to the landfill to create a material that feels a lot like leather!
All their shoes are ethically crafted in Spain, Italy or Portugal which reduces the carbon footprint compared to pieces created in Asia.
Nae Vegan is an ethical Portuguese footwear label using natural and eco-friendly materials to craft stylish yet comfortable shoes.
This is another brand that jumped on the opportunity to design with Pinatex early, giving them much more experience designing with the material compared to brands which are only just starting to experiment with plant-based leather.
Besides the ethical benefits, the brand also stresses the environmental benefits of using pineapple leather, especially in the domains of greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption.
Burgoise Boheme is a London-based vegan footwear brand which emphasizes quality, comfort and health when designing their pieces. They experiment with a variety of plant-based leather alternatives.
Aside from Pinatex, they also use Bio-Polyoils derived from grains and seeds as well as recycled rubber.
The brand does not have its own website, but you can find their pieces on a variety of third-party websites including Amazon.
This German label focused on crafting vegan accessories has a minimalist style with a touch of bohemian influence. Every collection is made using eco-friendly materials that benefit the environment.
Alongside pineapple leather, they also use cork and a variety of leathers crafted from what would otherwise become food waste.
By combining urban design with traditional craftsmanship, the Spanish brand Maravillas bags achieves its unique aesthetic.
It’s one of those brands that traditionally makes animal-based leather to craft their items but is introducing more plant-based, cruelty-free alternatives – a change that’s very welcome by many sustainable fashion lovers!
They offer a pineapple leather collection (Are you picking up a pattern? Pineapple leather is becoming more and more popular!) as well as a unique wooden range of bags made from sustainable walnut veneer.