Nine Natural Vegan Alternatives for Leather

BP World Bureau | Mar 27 2021
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Animal leather once used to be the epitome of luxury. But a lot of customers are turning to vegan leather due to ethical reasons. To be clear, any leather that is not made of animal leather is vegan. However, it includes materials like PVC and PU as well. If your bag’s tag says it is made of faux leather, you can comprehend that it is PVC or PU. While you have done right by the animals, it is still bad for the environment. There are very few brands that create faux leather from recycled materials. The best choice you can make is natural vegan leather aka plant-based leather. They look and feel as luxurious as animal leather. Since plant-based leather is a new entry into the fashion world, here are some of your best options.

1) pinatex 

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Pinatex is the commercial name chosen for pineapple leather. Invented by materials company Ananas Anam, this form of leather is made of fibres of pineapple leather. Contrary to the picture of a woven basket that popped into your head, this vegan leather is gaining popularity for its softness, flexibility, and durability. The source material for pinatex comes all the way from the Philippines as pineapples grow abundantly in the country. This sustainable leather is used in clothes, shoes, and bags. You can find pinatex accessories with brands like Hugo Boss and Nae.

2) Tea Leather 

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Tea leather is another biodegradable material that is gaining popularity in the vegan community. It is made from the by-products of fermented green tea. Developed by the team of researcher Young-A Lee at Iowa State University, tea leather is about putting food waste into use too. The research team was primarily focused on finding an alternate option for synthetic textiles using natural fibres. Using byproducts was an obvious option. The cellulosic material found in green tea acts the same way as leather. It is combined with a hemp-based lining to achieve perfection. It is known for being durable.

3) Muskin Leather

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Muskin leather is made from the skin of mushrooms. It is being welcomed by the fashion industry due to its strength and versatility. The mushroom skin needed for muskin leather is harvested from the caps of the mushroom species that are not edible. The suede-like touch of the muskin leather makes it a very convincing alternative for animal leather. Two brands that are keenly working with muskin leather are Nat-2 and MycoWorks. Vegan fashion enthusiasts are eagerly waiting for muskin leather to challenge animal leather products made by luxury brands.

4) Soy Leather 

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As its name suggests, soy leather is made from soybeans. The credit for its creation goes to an all-female collective called XXLab in Indonesia. The main resource of soy leather is the liquid waste from the large-scale production of tofu. While making a fashionable alternative for animal leather, it also puts food waste into good use. The liquid waste from tofu production is notoriously known for polluting the Indonesian waters. But when boiled and combined with vinegar, sugar, and bacteria, this food waste becomes microbial cellulose. The end result is a highly-durable leather-like fabric.

5) Cork Leather 

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Cork is one of the most popular vegan materials to take over the fashion world in recent years. It is also considered to be a sustainable material because cork is made from the bark of the cork oak tree. The entire tree doesn't have to be cut down to make cork. It is one of the oldest natural vegan materials as it has been around for a few decades. Cork leather can already be found in high-quality wallets and unique handbags. It is waterproof and stain-resistant. Cork leather is known for its distinctive look as well.

6) Zoa Bio Leather 

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Collagen is the main building block of animal leather as it is commonly found in all animal skins. A biotechnology company called Modern Meadow has used this well-known biological fact to create an ethical alternative for animal leather.  Collagen is fabricated in the lab by engineering a strain of yeast. The yeast will produce collagen through fermentation. Zoa leather starts off in liquid form which comes in handy when designers want to create different shapes. Modern Meadow has been using biofabrication to create sustainable materials since 2011. Zoa is Modern Meadow's collection focused on climate action without compromising the performance of the materials.

7) Malai Coconut Leather

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Hailing from India, malai coconut leather is made from the cell wall of coconut water and banana fibre. Malai is the Hindi word for the meat of tender coconuts. However, it is not the white creamy flesh but the water used in the process of leather making. The coconut water is collected and sterilised for the bacteria to feed on. The material is further fermented and refined. The end result is a completely organic leather-like product. Malai coconut leather is durable and flexible like animal leather. The brand 'Malai' is creating sustainable bacterial cellulose with local farmers and processing units of South India. The waste coconut water will be otherwise dumped and cause damage to the soil.

8) beLEAF Sustainable Tanning Solution

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‘beLEAF is developed by a Brazilian company called Nova Kaeru. The leaves of the elephant ear plant are put through a natural tanning process to create a breathable leather-like product. beLEAF innovation does not use chemicals like chromium and formaldehyde for tanning. The creating of this plant-based leather is sustainable as well. Elephant ear plants grow in abundance in the forests and riverbanks of Brazil. Nova Kaeru makes it a point to harvest leaves without killing the plant. 

9) Cartina Leather

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Unlike other plant-based leathers, Cartina relies on recycled paper to create a vegan leather alternative. Tuscany-based brand Cartina Leather is known for creating durable fabrics from used paper. It has a soft texture that makes it perfect for making clothes, shoes, and bags. In 2019, sustainable luxury label Humour Noir made a bag named 'Glory' using Cartina leather which went on to win the German Design Award for leading vegan fashion design.

Content courtesy: Eco Warrior Princess