'Leather' Made from Plants?

Jul 13, 2020by Justine - F&F

Whether you’re a veteran vegan or you’ve just switched to a plant-based diet, you’ve probably been on the hunt for nice vegan leather products that don’t cost the earth and are cruelty-free. Over the years it’s thankfully become easier to find Vegan Leather Shoes, Backpacks, Wallets and Purses that are actually on-trend. 

There are plenty of plant-based materials that are beautiful and getting easier to access. You’re probably familiar with PU leather, pineapple leather Piñatex, but more recently a few geniuses in Mexico have come with us cactus leather. 

We thought it was time to celebrate a few types of plant-based leather champions that are changing the game of leather production for the better. 

Matt & Nat Vegan BagsMatt & Nat Vegan Bags

Image: Matt & Nat

What Is Vegan Leather?

Vegan leather is a term used to describe bags that are made out of non-animal products.

Some of these might be natural materials like cork, hemp, pineapple or synthetic materials. The key is that no animals are used in the production of vegan leather bags whether that be material or glues, yes even glues can contain animal-derived products! 

One of our absolute favourite Vegan Bag brands, is Matt & Nat! Since 2007, they've been committed to using linings only made out of 100% recycled plastic bottles. Plus, 21 plastic bottles are recycled for every bag they produce. Pretty cool right?

Desserto Vegan Cactus LeatherDesserto Vegan Cactus Leather

Image: Desserto

Cactus Vegan-Leather

When Adrian and Marte, founders of Desserto realised the fashion industry was the second-largest polluter in the world, with cow leather as the main material used to make our shoes, belts and other clothing, they sought to create a more sustainable material and this is how cactus leather was born. 

Leather coming from a cow requires a lot of water, up to 1800 gallons of water per year, per cow. This doesn’t include the tanning process which uses even more water, followed by the toxic chemical treatment which is harmful to our environment.

As cactus is the most abundant plant in Mexico, the answer was right in front of them. Cactuses do not require a lot of water to grow and actually absorb carbon dioxide so they are good for the environment! The best part is that they don’t kill the cactus plant, but simply trim it’s leaves like a ‘haircut’ and let the plant continue to grow. 

How Is Cactus Leather Made?How Is Cactus Leather Made?

Image: Desserto

How Is Cactus Vegan-Leather Made?

The process involves cutting and cleaning the leaves, mashing them up, drying the mashed cactus for 3 days, mixing it with non-toxic chemicals, then shaping it into the preferred texture and colour. The result is beautiful, organic and durable vegan leather! 

What cactus? Simple, cactus can grow on land where other crops can't. This makes it a very valuable plant. The team at Desserto, are very careful and make sure to only cut the mature leaves of the plant without damaging the plant itself. This enables repeat harvest every 6-8 months from the same plants.

You can read more about Desserto and cactus leather here

Pinatex BagsPinatex Bags

Image: F&F

Bags Made From Pineapples!

Piñatex® is a natural textile made from waste from pineapple leaves fibre. The company is a Certified B Corporation®, just like us! 

Dr. Carmen Hijosa, founder of Piñatex and leathergoods expert, developed pineapple leather after realising the impact of mass leather production and chemical tanning has on our environment. 

Carmen looked for an alternative that used natural resources, plant fibres that could have a positive impact on the social and economic development in the Philippines, with an overall low environmental impact. We have some beautiful Pinatex Bags at Flora & Fauna. 

Pinatex Pineapple Leather Fibre ExtractPinatex Pineapple Leather Fibre Extract

Image: Ananas Anam/ Pinatex

How Is Piñatex Made?

The leaves of pineapples are tough and hard and generally not consumable, so as they are a byproduct of the pineapple harvesting, they are the perfect material to be made into a natural plant-based leather. First, the long fibres are extracted from the leaves, cleaned and naturally dried in the sun or during the rainy season, in ovens. 

Some leaves have imperfections which result in a fluffy-like material which when combined with a corn-based polylactic acid (PLA) is used to make Piñafelt, a non-woven mesh which is used as the base of all Piñatex products. 

Image: Instagram/ Happy Genie

Apple Vegan-Leather & How It's Made

When you drink your apple juice or cider, you don’t often think about the by-product which is, in fact, apple skins and where they end up. From our research, we’ve found there isn’t just one company making apple 'leather', but lots of brands taking advantage of this ecological, non-toxic material. 

Apple leather is said to be naturally UV resistant and incredibly durable, breathable, and hypoallergenic.  

Swiss company Happy Genie, says they make their apple vegan-leather with apple skins and pulp leftover from making apple juice. The skins are dried out, ground into a powder and mixed with pigments and a binder and spread out onto a canvas until it turns into a leather-like material.

At F&F we believe you can still have a sturdy and stylish cruelty-free bag.

We sell many different products such as Urban Originals Vegan Bags, Matt & Nat BagsCork Bags, Pinatex Wallets and more. 

Urban Originals bags are made very sustainably and responsibly from polyurethane which has had the harsh chemicals, like phthalates, removed. There's no legislation in Australia asking for this to happen so Urban Originals adhere to US Standards to make their bags of the best quality.

These bags are a great ethical alternative to using bags made from animal products and they are affordable too which is always a challenge when buying bags, leather or cruelty-free. We love them at Flora & Fauna, not only because no animals are harmed, but they also look great, are bang on trend, are soft and don't have that plastic smell you can find with bags. Plus they last; many customers have told us they've had them for years!

Learn more about our Vegan Bags in the blogs below:

Live Beautifully, With Matt & Nat's Vegan Handbags & Accessories

Is Cork Tough Enough?

Learn More About Pinatex

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