What do pineapples, cacti, grapes and even mushrooms have in common? They’re all sources of leather alternatives AKA vegan leather. You might have noticed that vegan leather is being used not only in clothing, shoes, and accessories but also in home goods. Vegan leather has become so popular that we’ve created a vegan leather guide.
Why Use Vegan Leather?
Interior designer Jerri Hobdy opted to use cactus leather derived from Mexico for her furniture coverings because they’re “…as durable (as leather, and as) supple, with choices offered in endless colors and textures.” When asked why she decided to use cactus leather, Hobdy stated,” Because our wellbeing includes the planet’s wellbeing.” And that’s one of the leading reasons why so many companies are turning to vegan leather. The processing of it isn’t toxic like leather processing, and when it hits a landfill, it will disintegrate as it’s biodegradable. Plant-based vegan leathers are a relatively new product, and companies are slowly rolling out products made with them.
Below, we’ll list a handful of different vegan leathers, plus a few products you can purchase right now that are made of these various leathers. That said, as this material is on the newer side, not all of these products are available! Keep checking back on this page as time goes on. We’ll continue to update with new materials and products as we come across them.
Mycelium or Mushroom leather is commercially known as either Mylo or MuSkin and may become the most popular of all types of vegan leather. In a New York Times article, Jamie Bainbrige, VP of production for Bolt (they make Mylo), explained why mushroom leather will be so popular. “When you touch a synthetic leather, you get a cold plastic feeling. When you touch Mylo, it has a suppleness and warmth that genuinely feels natural.” Grown in a lab, the material can be made to also look and feel like suede.
As of now, there aren’t any mushroom leather items for sale. Hermes will be debuting their mushroom leather towards the end of 2021. Joshua Katcher, the shoe designer behind Brave GentleMan, currently uses waste-diverted rubber and cotton in his footwear and wants to start using Mylo in his footwear, but it may take some time for him to acquire it. He explained via email, “an issue to note is that many smaller brands like mine have trouble accessing some of the newest innovative materials because the manufacturer’s sign exclusivity deals with major brands first. “
Adidas is planning on rolling out their first mushroom leather sneaker sometime 2021. The shoe they chose to update is their classic Stan Smith sneaker. In the company’s blog, they explain that the company is looking to reduce waste and by using sustainable products like Mylo, it won’t damage the planet.
Grape leather sounds like a kid’s snack but it’s made from the leftover materials used when making wine. What Milan-based Vegea does is combine the pressed grape skins, seeds, stems, etc., with vegetable oil and polyurethane, and it becomes a solid material. Once coated, it’s as strong and supple as leather. Two companies, Pangaia and Mr Porter used the fabric in footwear. Mr Porter updated their Larry Sneakers in the material, and they stated in a release that “ (the) quality, look and touch equivalent to conventional leather. However, unlike regular leather, no toxic solvents or heavy metals are involved in the production process.” Pangaia’s tech page stated that they opted to create a sneaker with the grape leather because “the material is not yet biodegradable and is difficult to recycle. With that in mind, we decided to use the material in a product that is low-wash and long-lasting.”
1. Mr Porter Eco-Edition Larry Sneakers
These classic tennis-style sneakers have a Vegea grape leather upper, Margom soles made with 30% recycled rubber, are lined in breathable microfiber, and have organic cotton laces. They come in either black or white.
2.Pangaia Grape Leather Sneakers
Looking like an OG skater, these grape leather sneakers are ultra-light, have a partly recycled rubber sole, are put together with water-based glue and have organic cotton laces. They also come in black.
As mentioned earlier in the article, cactus leather can be used in home goods and in accessories. Desserto, a Mexican-based company, has been creating cactus-based leather from the Nopal plant since 2019. It’s as durable and soft as traditional leather and can be dyed in a variety of colors. A cactus leather item can last 10 years, which when you think about it, means that it can last longer than a regular leather item. Porsche’s electric car, the Taycan has a cactus leather interior option. As of now, most products made by cactus leather seem to be targeted towards women. Fossil has begun making bags in partnership with Desserto, and shoe company CLAE is also using this material for their shoes.
3.CLAE Bradley Cactus Sneaker
Los Angeles-based CLAE has created a unisex cactus-based sneaker collection in colors that are meant to be evocative of the plant. The white, green, or black sneaker has a cactus leather upper, sits on the natural rubber outsole, has an EVA footbed, neoprene heel accent and recycled nylon laces.
4.Fossil Kier Cactus Leather Tote
While it’s marketed towards women, this cactus leather tote bag made in partnership with Desserto has a unisex design and can hold a 15-inch laptop. The interior is made from recycled polyester and it comes with a zippered pouch that can hold an iPad or Kindle.
Like the other vegan leathers, pineapple leather is a relatively new leather alternative material. Often referred to as Pinatex, which is also the name of the company that makes it, the process mixes sustainably sourced pineapple leaves, petroleum-based resin, and polyester to make a leather that can be used in shoes, boots, jackets, and other accessories. Like cactus leather, most pineapple leather products seem to be made for women. Shoe company NAE (No Animal Exploitation) Vegan Shoes makes pineapple sneakers, sandals and shoes for men.
6.NAE Lagos Pinatex Desert Boots
Designed like the classic Chukka boot, this pineapple leather boot is lined in anti-allergy microfiber, and the insole is made from a paperboard agglomerate. The outsole is non-slip rubber.
7.Votch Pinatex Pineapple Leather Strap Watch
Vegan watch company Votch’s Japanese quartz movement watch is made with vegan-friendly materials and a black Pinatex pineapple leather watch strap.