Fabrics of the Future: Leather Alternatives

With the attitude towards animal by-products changing, vegan leather is becoming more and more popular. But the controversy of whether vegan leather is more sustainable than animal leather comes to mind. Vegan leather is usually made from synthetic materials such as PVC, so although it’s great that it’s vegan, it’s not so good for the environment.

What if we had the option of leather products that didn’t harm animals or the environment? Continue reading to find out more about these sustainable alternatives to leather.

Apples

The Apple Girl

“Solving the leather problem with food waste.”

– The Apple Girl

This PETA-approved leather is 100% biodegradable in nature. You can even eat it if you wanted to. It’s the pulp waste that’s left over after pressing apples for cider or apple juice. The Apple Girl’s apple leather can be thick or thin and is resistant to mould. This leather is so soft that you can sew and colour it, but tough enough that it won’t rip or fall apart until it reaches soil. Not only will apple leather return back to nature at the end of its life, it just takes 1 litre of water to produce 1 meter of apple leather. In comparison, it takes about 14,000 litres of water to make just one pair of leather shoes; imagine how much water we would save if we switched from conventional leather to apple leather.

To find out more about the story of the Apple Girl, be sure to watch this video.

Pineapples

Image from Vilda Magazine

Dr. Carmen Hijosa, the founder of Ananas Anam Ltd and leather expert, was consulting on the Philippines leather export industry in the 90s and was shocked to find out the impact that mass leather production had on the environment. She decided she couldn’t continue down the same path anymore, but she knew that alternatives such as PVC was not the way she wanted to go. She then created Piñatex; a sustainable leather made of fibre from the leaves of the pineapple plant.

The fibres are extracted through a process called decortication which is done by the farmers, allowing them to further utilize the wasted leaves. Once they have been stripped, the leftover biomass can be used as a natural fertilizer or biofuel, so absolutely nothing is wasted. This leather-like fabric is soft and flexible, yet very durable. It can be used for products such as footwear, handbags, clothing and furniture.

The Lifecycle of Piñatex

Mushrooms

Image by MycoWorks

San Francisco based startup, MycoWorks, has created a leather from fungus. Sounds gross, but it’s actually pretty cool. It’s made from the traditional type of fungus, ganoderma lucidum, and it behaves and acts a lot like animal skin, but doesn’t take nearly as long to grow.

The materials start off as agricultural waste such as corn cobs, paper pulp waste, rice hulls and sawdust. The fungus eats the waste and develops cells, known as mycelium, the vegetative part of a fungus which grows beneath the surface. The creators can manipulate the material by manipulating its environment, temperature, humidity levels, light and exchange of gas. This gives it different patterns and colours, which is impossible with actual animal hides.

This leather is breathable, water wicking and naturally antibiotic. A fungus that might have just taken this series from fabrics of the future, to fungi of the future.

To learn more about MycoWorks Materials, be sure to watch this video.

Featured Image by chuttersnap on Unsplash

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