Leather Takes a Backseat to Sustainable Alternatives

Leather, the lusciously expensive animal hide that adorns most shoes, handbags, and belts, has become akin to fur in terms of animal abuse within the fashion industry. Yet, the popular alternative of vegan leather– the trendy name for synthetic plastic used in lieu of real leather– is almost equally as environmentally scarring. Thanks to new technologies, brands have been experimenting with new forms of sustainable fabric that mimic leather’s best qualities, without the killing of animals or wasteful plastics.

Pinatex by Ananas Anam is pioneering the use of pineapple leaves as a natural textile. The low-impact, socially responsible, and cruelty-free material recycles the pineapple leaf that is usually discarded by farmers. Pinatex subscribes to the “cradle-to-cradle” theory, a biomimetic approach to product design that uses the natural life cycle to reuse materials. Pinatex also provides alternative incomes to pineapple farmers in the Philippines, creating farming co-ops for leaf gathering.

A handbag made of Pinatex sustainable pineapple leaves.

Pinatex works with a variety of designers to create everything from shoes to watches, purses to hats. The pineapple leaf textile is available in charcoal, natural, brown, paprika, gold, and silver. London-based shoe brand Bourgeois Boheme uses Pinatex. “Using Pinatex in our collections was a natural choice for us,” Bourgeois Boheme founder Alicia Lai said. “It’s not only ethical but looks great, allowing us to continue to champion our vision of redefining the perception of vegan footwear.” Pinatex also works with brands such as Maniwala and Liselore Frowijn, among others.

The mycelin-based faux leather menswear bracelet made of MycoWorks mushroom material.

Pinatex is not the only company to pursue plant-based material. MycoWorks, a biotechnology firm, innovated the idea of using mycelium, the vegetative tissue of mushrooms, as a new kind of leather. Their carbon-negative process custom engineers a mycelium-based material that looks and feels like leather. CEO Phil Ross became familiar with mushrooms first in the medical sense and then began experimenting with the vegetable in the arts. From there, the Stanford grad founded MycoWorks to introduce the leather substitute to the world.

Maybe it’s time for all of us to rethink leather and get back to our roots with plant-based alternative materials. There is nothing more high-fashion than being green!


For more information, visit https://www.ananas-anam.com and http://www.mycoworks.com/.

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