Sustainability & Communications Consulting


Sustainability 101

5 Alternatives to Leather That We Love

Unlike what most people think, leather is very rarely a by-product of the meat industry. About one billion animals are killed annually only for their skin, often after encountering a life horrific abuse.

Raising livestock also uses extraordinary amounts of energy, water, food and land. Animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gases than all transportation systems combined throughout the world.

For these reasons, the leather industry has found itself under increasing scrutiny in recent years while fashion brands have begun searching for greener alternatives.

Artificial leather, also called "faux leather", "vegan leather" or "pleather" was until very recently mainly made from plastic and highly criticized for requiring the use of carcinogenic byproducts such as dioxins, that are toxic to humans and animals alike.

In the last few years, however, great alternatives to leather that are eco-friendly and vegan have started to emerge, catching the attention of numerous brands and designers.

We wanted to explore the best and most sustainable alternatives to leather available today and how fashion brands are making them iconic.

Bolt Thread Vegan Mushroom Bag Sustainable Fashion

Mushroom Leather

This new innovation turns mushroom roots, or mycel, into a vegan leather referred to as mylo material or MuSkin.

This has only been around since its introduction in 2018 so there are not a lot of products on the market for sale using mylo leather due to it being such a new technology.

Chester Wallace sold a bag made from mylo material for a short period of time as a limited edition bag and Stella McCartney also made an exclusive prototype of her famous “Falabella” for the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Mushroom leather is softer and more breathable than traditional leather, yet still waterproof. As for dying, all the prototypes made so far have reflected the natural color of a mushroom.

Vegan Leather Sustainable Fashion Apple

Apple Leather

This is a much more developed leather alternative and first launched in 2015.

Apple leather is formally known as pellemela which is created through dehydrated and powdered apple peels and cores, water, and natural glue. It is now used by many fashion brands with some dedicated apple leather lovers being The Apple Girl, Ashoko Paris, Nemanti, Veerah, or Poétique Paris.

All products made from apple leather are waterproof and remain breathable. Pellemela can be dyed with or without the use of chemicals, but its color at its natural state is commonly a light tan or cream.

Pinatex Sneakers Hugo Boss Vegan Sustainable Fashion Leather

Pineapple Leather

Pineapple leather, also called Piñatex, gained massive attention when well-known brands such as Hugo Boss and H&M used it in their recent collections.

In fact, it is the most popular fruit-based leather with over 500 brands using it. This is quite impressive considering it has only been around since 2016.

Piñatex is made from the leaves of pineapples which are usually burned or left behind to rot after pineapples are picked so no additional fertilizer, land, water, or pesticides are used for Piñatex production. This also gives pineapple farmers a new way to earn money off of their crops by giving what used to be waste a new purpose. Piñatex leather can be dyed, but is naturally developed in a white color.

Cork Leather

Cork has made its way as a popular material in shoes and accessories. Numerous luxury and popular brands including Chanel, Louboutin, TOMS, or Nordstrom have incorporated cork into their designs.

Cork is typically made from the outer bark of oak trees which have water resistant cells. This bark naturally grows back so there is no harm done. Cork has multiple impressive qualities being that it’s water repellent, flame resistant, moisture resistant, easy to clean, highly durable, and has a smooth and shiny finish.

Cork is usually left at its natural tan or brown color and does not undergo any dying process.

Waxed Cotton

Waxed cotton is the oldest technique used for crafting a “leather effect”.

This alternative to leather is typically made with paraffin-based wax that gets infused into heavy cotton. Waxed cotton is still widely used today in multiple brands with a couple being Barbour and Eileen Fisher.

What makes waxed cotton special is that the wax adjusts to the weather it is in. Cold weather makes the fabric windproof and stiffer while warm weather makes it more breathable and softer.

The cotton is dyed prior to it being waxed using the same dying process as any other cotton garment.

Clara SharmaComment