I love leather so much. They’re really durable, timelessly stylish, and you’ll look instantly badass when you wear it (jacket or pants). But the one thing I love most about leather is it’s distinct scent.
But of course, leather is made from animals, which is not the nicest thing. And if you’re vegan or you’re simply trying to minimize animal suffering, hear this: there are leathers which are animal-free, and they’re just as strong! Here are seven of them.
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Yeah, I was surprised when I found out about this. I mean, paper is usually quite weak, they’re not water-resistant, and you can bend or shape it. How come this thing can be as strong as leather?
But most humans, including me, tend to underestimate things. Paper, when it’s processed in good hands, can be a robust, durable material. There’s a church in Christchurch, New Zealand, which are made (not entirely but mostly) from cardboard. So if it’s strong enough for architecture, surely leather is a piece of cake.
You can see luxury paper leather in Bottega Veneta’s collection. They’ve made leather clutch called Carta Giapponese (Italian term for Washi) paper. Washi is a type of paper which is made from the bark of Kozo Tree (a fast-growing, Japanese version of mulberry).
Once it’s made, they cut the washi, left the edges raw, and carefully weaved it. Then, they lined the finished bag with silk and put blackened brass hardware for finishing.
If you don’t fancy Bottega Veneta’s “paper bag”, then you can check out other designers that have also made paper leather bags. Try searching Ilvy Jacobs and Engage Green and see which designer you like most.
2. Waxed cotton
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A perfect substitute for leather is probably waxed cotton. Why? Because this material is flexible, waterproof, and easily washable unlike real leather. With this, you won’t have to spend too much money on specialist textile cleaning or leather care products. You’ll also save the environment from all the chemicals which are usually used for real leather.
You can find waxed cotton in a number of big brands such as 7 for all Mankind and Marc Jacobs. They’ve used this material for their jeans and bags for quite a long time.
3. Apple fibres
Another surprising thing which can be turned into leather. We don’t usually expect or think to turn apples into something wearable, right? But then again, there are a lot of fruit-based materials such as orange peels and banana skins which are turned into fashion items or textiles.
So now, you apples (and their waste) are not only perfect for compost pile, but also clothing. Isn’t it cool to know that the chic fashion item you have is sustainable, cruelty-free, and made from simple apples? If you want to take a look of how this turns out, check out Happy Genie. It’s a luxury brand that uses apple waste as the material.
4. Tree bark and cork
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Cork is one of the most eco-friendly materials that you can find. It’s natural, recyclable, and it also helps prevent deforestation. You probably know cork to be a material in floor tiling because it’s organic yet water-resistant.
And because of its characteristics, cork leather is quite popular. Luxury brands such as Chanel and Louboutin as well as the smaller, indie brands have been using this material for some time. Also, the water-resistant quality allows you to make it into umbrellas as well.
Tree bark is similar to cork, and it has its own distinctive qualities. Wood leather is durable, robust, and you’ll find that one leather differs from another because of its varied natural grains. Also, you can make it as thin as real leather to make coats and trousers!
This type of leather is made from sustainable timber. Meaning that you’ll get it from fast growing, renewable wood. Then it’s treated with non-toxic chemicals to make it long-lasting, well-preserved, and pliable enough to sew. If you want to see this leather in real life, check out Dolce Gabbana’s bags and platform shoes collection.
The word has apple in it, so it’s only normal that the fruit is also leather-able. There’s a limited edition collection from Hugo Boss that features cruelty-free footwear made from Pinatex. It’s a leather alternative which is made from pineapple leaf fibers. Also, the material is collected as a harvest by-product. This means that farmers can sell the leaves as an additional income.
The Pinatex in the footwear is combined with 100% organic cotton laces, recycled TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) soles, cotton and linen linings, as well as natural, plant-based dyes. Aside of pineapple leaves, there is also beautiful leather which is made from pineapple waste.
6. Mushroom (or more like Fungus)
Who would’ve thought that great leather can also be made from mushrooms? MuSkin is a mushroom leather brand which are completely biodegradable and eco-friendly. So the thing with this type of leather is that you can grow it to the size and shape you need. Then you need to waterproof it in a simple, chemical-free way.
MuSkin uses mushroom called Phellinus Ellipsoideus. It’s a big parasitic fungus that grows in the wild and it attacks trees in subtropical forests. So it’s a good thing that we’re harvesting them, isn’t it?
And when it becomes a leather material, it has the same softness as suede and the strength of leather which are made from animal skins. It’s a great alternative for conventional leather, and it’s entirely plant-based (even better), non-toxic, and cruelty free.
One of MuSkin’s notable feature is that the leather has breathable properties. It allows moisture absorption and release. The leather is also hygienic, so you won’t have to worry about bacteria spreading to your skin.
Another mushroom leather that you can wear is nat-2’s “Funghi Line”. It’s a high-end, vegan footwear from a tree fungus called Fomes Fomentarius. The material is animal-free and it’s combined with other natural materials such as “eco-cotton frottee, microfibre suede from recycled PET bottles, real cork insoles and real rubber outsoles.”
Just like MuSkin’s leather, the sneakers have a really soft texture and feel, as well as vintage look that appeals to fashionistas and eco-conscious consumers. It should be noted that consumers are now getting interested to take more ethical approach to their lifestyle, especially eating and fashion. Therefore, providing great alternative like fungus leather is a good problem-solver.
7. Teak leaves
So you can turn bark and cork into leather, then you can also do it with leaves. Elpis Studio is the brand that does this. They transform teak leaves into stylish, urban, everyday items.
Because it’s made of leaves, the products are so lightweight and surprisingly strong. It’s even able to resist tropical storms. So with this, you can take your unique, eco-friendly fashion items wherever you want, be it shopping mall or beach.
So what kind of animal-free leather that you like most? I’m personally interested in the fungus leather, but you can absolutely comment what you prefer in the comment box below. Don’t forget to leave a like if you enjoyed reading this and check out this article to know more about ethical clothing.