Vegan leather, to the unitiated, can seem oxymoronic. For those in the know it’s a whole new world of handbags. Cruelty-free!
Are you looking to get into vegan fabrics and not sure where to start?
We hear you there are a lot of cool options now for vegan leather and it can be quite confusing working out what’s what with all these choices.
So, we’ve got a simple guide to the best vegan leather picks for 2020 to help you out.
Plant-Based Leather Alternatives
In addition to the five major plant-based leather alternatives we feature here there are also choices made from the leaves of mulberry bushes and teak leaves!
We expect to see more varieties of plant leather to emerge over time.
The Apple Girl brought the idea of apple-based leather to life and it’s already being implemented in handbags and purses.
It’s a completely fossil-fuel free production process too. One really interesting thing about Apple Leather is not just that it’s biodegradable but that it’s also edible!
So, if you really have to eat something when you’re stranded on a desert island – an apple leather handbag will do fine.
You make this leather from the stem rather than the fruit of the plant, which makes it super ethical because that bit is normally just thrown away.
You can even make banana leather at home but it’s probably best to buy if from vegan suppliers such as the ones based in Kosrae, Micronesia who provide jobs to those who need them.
However, there are limits on the flexibility of banana leather and it’s not the perfect choice for vegan shoes.
Yes! The folks at Vegea in Italy were the ones who came up with the idea of Grape Leather made from 100% real grape waste.
They work with vineyards and wineries to take their waste and make it into stylish products.
You might not believe it but Bentley, the car manufacturer, now offers grape leather seating in its cars!
It’s even possible to turn mushrooms into leather which is pretty amazing when you consider they’re mostly fiber free but, in fact, it’s all the lovely protein in mushrooms that makes them a near perfect substitute for cow’s leather.
It is of course, full biodegradable and the brand MuSkin can now be found in shoes, purses, belts and more!
This is Piñatex and it’s made from the fibers found in pineapple leaves which is awesome because it means they can still eat the tasty fruit and it’s a byproduct of fruit growing so it uses up no extra water or land resources over those already in play.
You can get Piñatex from annas-amam which is the first major producer and it’s already being used in shoes.
Synthetic And Natural Replacements For Vegan Leather
It’s also quite important to acknowledge the vegan alternatives that exist alongside the current crop of plant-based alternatives and to note that while they may not be quite as good for the planet, they are often more affordable options when money’s tight but you need new shoes.
Malai Design & Materials turned to the humble coconut for their leather substitute, but they don’t make it from husks or leaves.
They turn the coconut milk into cellulose (the tough fibers which make for an excellent leather substitute) using a bacterial process which leaves a leather-like finish to the cellulose.
They say it saves untold harm to the environment and the animals around us.
Coffee Grounds And Plastic Bottles
It might not be everyone’s cup of tea (excuse the pun) but the amazing engineers of Germany decided that the best vegan alternatives would be made out of recycled vegan waste because that’s the ultimate in cruelty-free and low resource manufacturing.
So, the folks of nat-2 found that combining recycled coffee grounds and old plastic bottles could bring a material that was almost identical to suede and now they incorporate that into their sneaker range!
Paper, Wood and Cork
You don’t harm any trees in the making of paper, wood or cork products.
You use reclaimed wood or recycled paper and in the case of cork, you simply shave the tree (the cork is the bark and it grows back without a problem – thus, cork farming means growing and sustaining cork trees).
They’re used in thousands of vegan products as leather substitutes.
We know, it’s plastic.
And it is, by far, the least eco-friendly of these materials.
But it does last forever and if you’re buying secondhand stuff it’s not going to do any additional harm to the planet.