The fashion industry is considered one of the most polluting in the world, in fact, some research from previous years ranks it around fifth place in terms of environmental pollution.
This is mainly due to the amount of chemicals and additives used to dye and finish the industry's materials, including leather of animal origin.
Due to this, great concern has arisen to find a sustainable and biodegradable alternative to genuine leather. This alternative is known as vegan leather.
What is vegan leather?
To define vegan leather as such, we have to start by defining the concept of vegan to understand what the term refers to.
A person is known as vegan when they decide not to consume, buy or use any product of animal origin or related to the exploitation of animals, that is, they not only stopped consuming food of animal origin, but also do not wear clothing made with silk or leather, since they come from animals.
Considering that absolutely all genuine leathers, that is, they come from tanning from animal skin, then most synthetic leathers would qualify as vegan leathers.
Nothing is further from the truth, since the idea of vegan leather also includes concern for the environment, which is why synthetic leathers, being mostly made from plastics or plastic derivatives, continue to be highly polluting.
Vegan leather as an alternative to leather of animal origin.
Thanks to technological evolution and the efforts of many brilliant minds in the research and creation of materials, there are a wide variety of fabrics on the market capable of replacing leather of animal origin.
Of course, some are still in the development stages to be considered viable alternatives, but there are already several candidates that are beginning to take center stage as vegan leather, among them we can highlight:
That's right, there are several families of vegetable fibers that have begun to be used to make fabrics that are very similar to leather in their final finish.
Similarly, some are more advanced than others, here are the best candidates:
Today, it is perhaps the most famous alternative, mainly for having been developed by a famous designer, Carmen Hinojosa. This vegan leather is made from the fibers of the leaves that are discarded from the pineapple, so it can be considered a product made with recycling.
It has a finish quite similar to genuine leather and rivals it in terms of durability. In 2018 it was patented after 2 years of development and testing of the material, from which its properties and characteristics were verified.
Unfortunately, piñatex is not yet a fully biodegradable product, since it includes polylactic acid (plastic) and some petroleum-derived resins in its composition, mainly to give it durability.
Yes, we know, does cork serve as vegan leather? And although it sounds nonsense, the truth is that cork fibers have been appearing as an alternative to leather of animal origin for some time, mainly because it is a totally biodegradable product, in addition to being easily obtained.
In fact, there are already some brands designing products from cork fibers and with finishes that have practically nothing to envy to genuine leather.
As you read, vegan leather created from waxed cotton fibers is another of the alternatives to leather made with vegetable fibers.
However, unless people prove that the cotton comes from a fully organic and environmentally friendly farm, it is unlikely to be free of contaminants.
The truth is that cotton cultivation can be highly polluting, mainly due to the amounts of water invested in it, along with insecticides and pesticides.
Leather made from mushrooms:
Well, it turns out that the fiber of the mushrooms has a texture very similar to that of genuine leather, therefore, a possible vegan leather is being developed from the fibers of these small organisms.
The main advantage of this type of leather made from mushrooms is that its production cost can be extremely low, since mushrooms can be grown in organic waste from other production processes.
In addition to plant fibers, some fabrics have been developed from recycled material that may qualify as industrially viable vegan leather.
Most of them come from recycling plastics, like the leatherette that we have used for years now.
However, every day there are more recycling materials that are being used for the manufacture of vegan leather, one of the most popular is the use of tires to manufacture fibers and from these, vegan leather.
Again, they are not usually biodegradable materials, but at least they allow a part of the great amount of waste that humanity produces to be reused, which is why they are still considered as alternatives to genuine leather.
Is vegan leather really friendly to the environment?
As we have previously mentioned, a few years ago, most vegan leathers were made from fibers from different types of plastics, and we all know that any commercial activity related to plastic ends up being highly polluting.
Fortunately, and given the alternatives presented in the previous section, we can see that there are more and more alternatives that are almost completely ecological and biodegradable.
Having said this, we have to say that we cannot yet say that vegan leather is totally ecological or friendly to the environment, but perhaps it is only a matter of time before it is.
At Curtidos Menacho we are manufacturers and distributors of skins and leathers of different origins and materials, of course, we still include different varieties of leather of animal origin in our catalogue, but we also have synthetic leathers.
We hope to be able to include in our products some of the ecological alternatives that we present in this publication.