Welcome to the Will's Vegan Shoes journal, where we constantly strive to inform and inspire our community about the amazing developments in sustainable fashion.
Vegan leather has evolved tremendously in recent years and is offering cutting-edge alternatives to traditional animal leather. In this article, we will explore various types of vegan leather including bio-leather, apple leather, pineapple leather, mushroom leather, cork, cactus leather, and the new generation of vegan leathers from suppliers like Natural Fiber Welding's Mirum and Biophilica.
Let's delve into how each is made, their content, sustainability, benefits, and potential downsides.
PU (Polyurethane) Vegan Leather:
Made from: PU leather is made from polyurethane, a type of plastic, which is coated onto a fabric backing.
Sustainability: It's less harmful than PVC but still has an environmental impact due to the use of plastics and the chemicals involved in production.
Benefits: It's versatile, available in various textures and colors, and can closely mimic the appearance and feel of real leather.
Negatives: It's not biodegradable and the production process can be resource-intensive and polluting.
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) Vegan Leather:
Made from: PVC leather is made by applying a layer of PVC to a fabric backing and then treating it with plasticizers and other chemicals to create different textures.
Sustainability: PVC is one of the least sustainable materials. The production and disposal of PVC can release harmful chemicals, including dioxins, which are hazardous to the environment and human health.
Benefits: It's cheap to produce and offers a wide variety of textures and finishes.
Negatives: Extremely harmful to the environment, not biodegradable, and the chemicals used can be toxic.
Made from: Bio-leather is made by using microbial processes to produce a leather-like material. Yeast, bacteria, and fungi are used to create a matrix that resembles collagen, which is the main component of animal leather.
Sustainability: It has a lower environmental footprint compared to animal leather since it doesn't involve rearing livestock.
Benefits: It can be produced in a controlled environment, reducing resource wastage and promoting efficient production.
Negatives: Being a relatively new technology, the scalability and long-term environmental impacts are yet to be fully understood.
Cactus Leather (Desserto):
Made from: Cactus leaves, which are cut, cleaned, mashed, and then turned into sheets.
Sustainability: Cactus grows with minimal water, making this an extremely sustainable option.
Benefits: Durable, breathable, and has a similar feel to animal leather.
Negatives: Being a relatively new material, the long-term durability is not fully known.
Made from: Apple leather is created from the apple industry's waste like cores and peels. These are ground, mixed with polyurethane, and then applied to a fabric backing.
Sustainability: It's a way of recycling waste, but the inclusion of polyurethane reduces its eco-friendliness.
Benefits: It is durable, and its texture is close to real leather.
Negatives: The use of polyurethane, a plastic, makes it less biodegradable.
Pineapple Leather (Piñatex):
Made from: Made from the fibers of pineapple leaves, which are a byproduct of the pineapple harvest.
Sustainability: Highly sustainable, as it uses agricultural waste and reduces dependency on petroleum-based materials.
Benefits: Lightweight, strong, and has a unique texture. It provides additional income to pineapple farmers.
Negatives: The end product is not as supple as traditional leather and may not be suitable for all applications.
Fruit-Based Vegan Leathers - Additional Note:
It's important to note that some of the fruit-based vegan leathers such as apple leather, cactus leather and Piñatex (pineapple leather) typically have a PU coating. This coating enhances the durability and usability of the material but does diminish some of the ecological benefits since PU is a form of plastic and is not biodegradable. It's essential for consumers to be aware of this component when making choices based on sustainability.
Mushroom Leather (Mylo):
Made from: Mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms. These are grown under controlled conditions, and then treated and tanned.
Sustainability: It's biodegradable and uses significantly less resources compared to animal leather.
Benefits: It's soft, durable, and versatile.
Negatives: It's currently expensive to produce, and availability is limited.
Made from: Bark of cork oak trees. The bark is harvested without cutting down the tree and then processed into sheets.
Sustainability: Highly sustainable; cork oak trees absorb more CO2 when the bark is regenerating.
Benefits: Lightweight, water-resistant, and durable.
Negatives: It has a distinct look which may not appeal to everyone and is less versatile than other leathers.
Mirum (Natural Fiber Welding):
Made from: A combination of natural materials like hemp, cork, and coconut husks, bound together without using plastics or glue.
Sustainability: Extremely sustainable due to its all-natural composition.
Benefits: Durable, versatile, and free from plastics or synthetic binders.
Negatives: Limited availability and potentially higher costs due to the natural materials involved.
Made from: Bio-based polymers and natural fibers.
Sustainability: Its production process is designed to be low-carbon and it aims to be compostable at the end of its life.
Benefits: It emulates the feel of traditional leather closely while being eco-friendly.
Negatives: As with other newer materials, large-scale production and long-term performance are still being studied.
Will's Vegan Shoes Bio-Based Vegan Leather:
Made from: Will's Vegan Shoes uses a remarkable bio-based vegan leather, which is made from 69% bio-based content. The bio-based component is derived from cereal crops grown in northern Europe. The remaining 31% is from polyurethane (PU).
Sustainability: The utilization of bio-based content significantly reduces the reliance on fossil fuels. The carbon footprint is reduced as the crops absorb CO2 during growth. It is a more sustainable option compared to traditional PU leather.
Benefits: It combines the benefits of bio-based materials with the versatility of PU to create a leather that is not only eco-friendly but also durable, breathable, and comfortable.
Negatives: While significantly more sustainable than purely synthetic alternatives, the inclusion of PU means it's not 100% biodegradable.
We look forward to introducing the latest version of our Will's Vegan Shoes signature bio-based vegan leather in autumn 2023 with an improved 82% bio-based content and the remaining 18% content composed of recycled polyester, removing the use of virgin PU.
The variety of vegan leathers available is astonishing and continues to grow as technology and innovation pave the way for more sustainable alternatives. Each material has its unique set of properties, benefits, and downsides. The key is to weigh these factors based on individual preferences and the intended application. At Will's Vegan Shoes, we are proud to be part of this revolution towards a more sustainable and compassionate world.
With the introduction of bio-leather, apple leather, pineapple leather, mushroom leather, cork, cactus leather, Mirum, and Biophilica, the landscape of vegan leather has drastically expanded. Traditional vegan leather, mainly made from PU and PVC, has been a popular choice for years, but with increasing environmental consciousness, these newer alternatives are gaining momentum.
PVC, in particular, is now being recognized as highly detrimental to the environment due to the toxins released during production and disposal. This has fueled the quest for more sustainable options. Materials like cork and cactus leather present viable alternatives with significantly lower environmental footprints. The innovations such as Mirum and Biophilica are pushing the boundaries further by completely eliminating plastics from the equation.
It's also essential to highlight the ethical perspective. Opting for vegan leather spares countless animals the cruelty associated with the leather industry and promotes a more compassionate lifestyle.
The future looks bright as research and development in vegan materials continue to flourish. We can expect further advancements, not only in sustainability but also in the quality and variety of vegan leather options. The integration of these materials into the mainstream market is vital for encouraging wider adoption and making an impactful change.
The vegan leather revolution is about more than just materials. It's about redefining values and making choices that are in harmony with the environment and all living beings. Through informed choices, consumers have the power to drive demand for sustainable and ethical products, shaping the future of fashion in a positive way.