Recently there has been an increase in people’s interest in vegan leather. This is because of the growing awareness about A. How poorly cows are treated when they are slaughtered for their skins, and B. How animal farming causes land degradation and environmental damage.
There are now so many alternatives to animal leather, it’s becoming apparent that we no longer need to cause animals to suffer to get nice fabric for our clothing and sofas. At present, there are several types of vegan leather; with new types being developed all the time. These plant-based leathers are not taken through the toxic turning process like traditional leather, so they’re eco-friendly in that respect as well. Below we look at some of the common types of vegan leather, how they are made, and their pros and cons:
Teak Leaf Leather
Teak leaves are thick and rich in fibre, which makes them ideal for making vegan leather. The fibre is taken from fallen leaves, so no damage is done to the green cover to make it. These leaves are soaked in water and then arranged flat to dry. The dry leaves are then mended and applied a thin layer of non-toxic BOPP to maintain the beautiful leaf structure. Teak leaf leather is becoming one of the leading vegan leathers used for making consumer vegan leather products.
- Made from fallen leaves
- Doesn’t last long unless treated with polyurethane
Apple leather is made from apple pulp. The pulp is leftover waste from apple juice production. Since this leather reuses a traditional waste product, it is good for the environment. The process of making this leather is pretty simple. The pulp is treated, rolled into strips, and then heated to make it flexible.
- Utilises waste products
- Highly textured
- Cannot produce smooth textured leather
Pineapple leather is made from pineapple leaf fibre. It’s also made from a waste product since pineapple leaves are typically discarded immediately after harvesting. The process of making this leather is pretty simple – fibre is detached manually from the leaves. However, polyurethane is necessary to be added as a coating to soften the leaf leather.
- Made from waste products
- Can produce a range of colours
- Unique Texture
- Requires polyurethane treatment
- Not completely smooth
Banana makes one of the finest faux leathers. Unlike most other fruits, banana stems produce only once and then never fruit again. The stem and leaves that have already produced fruits are the scraps used to make vegan leather. The fibre in the stem and leaves are smashed up, dried and some eco-friendly chemicals are added are to make the new leather soft. This is how banana leather is produced.
- Uses waste product
- Doesn’t last long unless polyurethane treated
- Limited colour options
Mushrooms are not only nutritious but also makes a incredible vegan leather. It is one of the plants that produce a vegan leather that closely mimics animal leather. This leather is made from mushroom caps and tanned with non-toxic chemicals.
- Very soft
- Water repellent
- More expensive than other vegan leathers
Cacti are drought-resistant plants that require very little water to grow. Their large leaves are rich in fibre which is necessary to make leather. The mature leaves are harvested, cleaned, smashed to a pulp, and left to dry in the sun for at least three days. They can also be dried artificially. The fibre is added polyurethane and other eco-friendly softening ingredients.
- Very durable
- Thick leather suitable for clothing and shoes
- Comes in multiple colours
- Cactus are very slow growing so large-scale production is difficult
Apart from wine, grapes also can be used to make high-quality, sustainable leather. This vegan leather is made from the skins and other leftovers from wine production. The skin and stalks from these fruits provide the fibre needed for making the leather. They are dried and non-toxic chemicals are added to create a fine faux leather.
- Very soft and smooth
- 100% sustainable
- Uses waste products
- Short lifespan compared to cow leather
These are just a few of the many types of vegan leather. Almost all plants with fibre, including garlic, roses and many others can produce faux leather. Expect to see more and more of these leathers becoming mainstream in the years ahead as people learn to treat their animal companions, and the planet, better.