With many of us shifting towards a more ethical, sustainable, and environmentally-conscious lifestyle, the demand for eco-friendly leather alternatives has never been greater.
While some leather production methods (like vegetable-tanned leather) aren't damaging for the planet, others like "chrome-tanned" methods can harm the local environment.
Fashion designers and manufacturers worldwide are fast replacing their genuine leather goods with vegan leather, cruelty-free leather, and faux leather options.
In this guide to leather alternatives, we’ll look at the many options available for those who want to hang up their genuine leather handbags.
Plant-Based Faux Leather Fabrics
There are countless plant-based leather fabrics available on the market today.
Here we list some of the most popular to help you make a more informed decision when shopping for cruelty-free materials:
1. Piñatex Leather
Made from pineapple leaf, Piñatex is a leather alternative unlike any other. It is vegan and cruelty-free, made without harmful chemicals and, best of all, it is fully biodegradable.
Leading brands like Hugo Boss love using Piñatex as an eco-friendly leather alternative, so look out for it next time you shop.
More info: https://www.ananas-anam.com/about-us/
2. MuSkin Leather
Another plant-based leather is MuSkin, which comes from the Phellinus ellipsoideus fungus or a mushroom to you and me!
Natural and biodegradable, MuSkin is a beautiful soft material, much like suede. It’s water resistant, ideal for faux leather purses and jackets, and 100% toxin-free.
3. Cork Leather
Cork is one of the most versatile materials available today, but did you know you can get cork leather, too?
Derived from cork tree bark, this eco-leather alternative is lightweight, water-resistant, and surprisingly durable.
4. Natural Leaf Leather
Leaf leather is a naturally derived plant-based leather made from fallen leaves.
Sustainable, organic, and ethically chic, leaf leather is perfect for creating eco-friendly accessories and ideal for a fully biodegradable leather alternative.
5. AppleSkin Apple Leather
AppleSkin is a faux leather fabric sourced sustainably from the leftover fibers of the apple juice industry.
This plant-based leather is OEKO-TEX certified and 100% cruelty-free. It utilizes leftovers to create a beautiful, versatile leather alternative.
More info: https://www.appleskin.com/
6. Bananatex® Leather
Adored by world-renowned fashion designer Stella McCartney, Bananatex® is a plant-based leather cultivated in the Philippines from banana plants.
It is natural, eco-friendly, cruelty-free, sustainable, ethical, and Cradle to Cradle Gold-certified, the ultimate leather alternative.
More info: https://www.bananatex.info/
7. Coconut Leather
Coconut leather looks and feels like the real thing, but it is made entirely from organic material waste from the coconut industry.
The beauty of coconut leather is that it is breathable, flexible, and water-resistant, so you can use it to make almost any product.
More info: https://malai.eco/
8. Bio-Alloy™ Vegan Leather
Made by Modern Meadow, Bio-Alloy™ is a superior faux leather fabric.
It is as soft and luxurious as authentic leather but contains only raw natural materials, and best of all, manufacturing it produces 90% less GHG emissions than animal leather.
More info: https://www.bio-sourced.com/bio-alloy/
Lab-Grown & Recycled Leather Alternatives
Other leather alternatives include lab-grown leather and recycled rubber, which are sustainable and cruelty-free.
Lab-grown leather, made from yeast cell collagen, is bio-fabricated to look like animal leather.
While recycled rubber, typically made from old car tires, is a popular leather substitute for boots, shoes, and accessories.
To help you determine which leather alternative best suits your project, we have compiled the following FAQs:
- What is Vegan Leather?Vegan leather is just one of many names given to imitation leather. Others include plant-based leather, faux leather, fake leather, synthetic leather, and recycled leather. Vegans should research products labelled ‘vegan leather’ to ensure they include only 100% animal-free products or byproducts.
- Are all leather alternatives clearly labeled?Unfortunately not. Many products are labeled faux or imitation leather when they are, in fact, plant-based leather or lab-grown leather. Leading manufacturers and fashion brands are typically transparent with their labeling, so you might want to shop elsewhere if the label is unclear.
- Are leather alternatives more environmentally friendly than genuine leather?This depends on the product. Plant-based leathers made from organic waste and raw materials produce considerably less greenhouse emissions than animal leather, making them kinder on the planet. PVC leathers, on the other hand, are petroleum-based, and as such, they contain toxins and carcinogens that are bad for the environment.
- Are leather alternatives more sustainable than genuine leather?Again, this depends on the type of leather alternative. Many plant-based leathers made from coconut fibers, pineapple leaf fibers, and tomato fruits are highly sustainable, as are cork leathers, but fabrics made from petroleum or plastic do not fall within the same category.
As the demand for eco-friendly leather alternatives continues to grow, manufacturers are looking at new ways to fill that demand with sustainable materials that look and feel as good as the real thing.
Technology advances allow leather designers to push the boundaries further than we ever thought possible.
And if the above is anything to go by, one man’s waste could soon become another man’s leather!
We hope you enjoyed our article on leather alternatives.
If you have any questions or comments, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave them in the comments.
Want to read more? Check out our Leather pages.