Vegan leather textile designers are ready to drape you in sustainable, beautiful pieces from head to toe.
Since the dawn of humanity, animals have been used for food, clothing and even shelter (you saw The Revenant, right?). Times are changing, as more and more people — not just vegans — are shying away from purchasing animal-derived products, especially leather. Manufacturers and the fashion industry have taken notice. Vegan leather textiles are being produced and innumerable products made that will keep your closet filled with animal-free essentials. And if looking great weren’t enough, these products are also eco-friendly, made from all-natural or recycled materials, sustainable and in some cases helping impoverished communities create a new viable industry.
When you’re in need of leather that never mooed, turn to these five options to get your vegan leather fix.
1. Piñatex: It All Starts with a Pineapple
Pineapple is a fruit that evokes memories of holidays spent in a tropical locale, sipping umbrella-adorned drinks as the sun sets. But pineapple is now more than just a vacation staple. It’s a vegan leather alternative. To produce the nonwoven textile, Piñatex begins in farming communities in the Philippines where pineapples are grown. With the pineapple leaves’ fibers, they create a natural and sustainable textile. Ananas Anam is behind the creation, manufacturing and sales of Piñatex. Piñatex has not only brought an innovative textile to market, but it’s also provided a new source of income for farmers and a new industry for pineapple-growing countries. And because the pineapple fibers are a byproduct of the harvest, no extra land, water, fertilizers or pesticides are required — a boon for the environment.
For an attractive satchel, clutch, purse or backpack, check out Maravillas.
And because every closet deserves a moto jacket, designer Elisa Muresan has it covered.
2. Muskin: A New Mushroom Trip
The next time you order mushrooms on a pizza, consider how you could be holding a tote or wearing shoes made from fungi thanks to Muskin, a 100% vegetable eco-alternative to animal leather. Made from Phellinus ellipsoideus, a parasitic fungus found in subtropical forests that attacks trees, every piece of Muskin is unique.
Muskin is extracted from the mushroom hat and, according to Life Materials, it feels like suede leather with a texture that can be soft or slightly harder than cork. It is a water-repellant and breathable textile that is completely free of toxic substances, so it’s safe for the skin, while limiting bacteria proliferation.
3. Cork: It’s Not Just for Wine
I’m sure you noticed the comparison of Muskin to cork and perhaps wondered what that was about. Well, cork — which is harvested from cork oak trees in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, northern Africa and even Australia — has become a very popular vegan leather option. Cork leather has been used by high-profile designers, including Calvin Klein, to create handbags. On a smaller, homegrown scale, Corkor in Portugal, where as much as 50% of the world’s cork is produced, makes handbags and accessories, such as wallets, out of this alternative textile for the international market. The company employs local Portuguese artisans at their small workshop, and its handmade products are eco-friendly and 100% vegan.
Corkor gives shoppers the option to be stylish, modern and trendy, with its cork-made vegan leather products.
4. Olsenhaus: Ticking All the Vegan Leather Boxes
If you want vegan leather shoes that are cruelty-free, sweatshop-free, made of natural materials, upcycled, low-carbon and part of Fair Trade, you’ll want to seek out New York–based Olsenhaus. Proudly proclaiming that the company is vegan for the animals and the planet, and not because of a trend, it manufactures shoes responsibly in Mexico, India and Spain. The shoes are made from a variety of 100% vegan materials that are either plant-based or man-made (including bamboo, cotton, hemp, cork and wood) and low-impact synthetics (such as ultra-suede, velvet microfibers, nylon and faux leather that isn’t plastic). When it comes to recycling, the company isn’t afraid to get creative. It has used all the following for its products: reclaimed rubber tires and plastic bottles, milk jugs, plastic detergent bottles and even TV screens.
The shoes are truly a piece of art and, as such, have been displayed in museums.
5. Barkcloth: A Textile Fit for a King
For centuries, barkcloth has been made in the Buganda kingdom of Uganda. The bark of the Mutuba tree, alternatively known as the ficus tree, is harvested by Ugandan farmers without cutting the tree down and then used to make the cloth. Bark from just one Mutuba tree can be harvested for over 40 years, making it a truly environmentally friendly, renewable material. The making of barkcloth is a culturally significant process. The textile, referred to as Olubugo by the people of Uganda, is used to make ceremonial clothing for the kingdom’s royalty, chiefs and heirs. “Its preparation involves one of humankind’s oldest savoir faire, a prehistoric technique that predates the invention of weaving,” according to UNESCO.
While historically used for funerals and formal occasions, this textile is finding new life with designers. Multiple-award-winning designer José Hendo has a barkcloth collection, Resonance.
The label promotes the use of eco textiles and advocates for sustainable fashion, while exclusively using end-of-line, upcycled and organic materials. The designs Hendo creates from barkcloth are, in a word, stunning.
No matter the reason you’re interested in vegan leather, these inventive, alternative textiles and the products made from them will have you covered from head to toe. The hard part will be choosing what to purchase first.