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5 Types of Sustainable Leather That Can Instantly Benefit the Planet (and Your Wardrobe)

Photo: Valentina Frugiuele

In recent years, the fashion industry has earned a bad reputation for its significant impact on the environment, animals, and communities. Destructive manufacturing processes and a lack of responsibility have contributed to a dangerously large carbon footprint that brands and consumers are beginning to address. One solution to repairing the damage? Sustainable leather. If you feel a traditional leather handbag is no longer worth the harmful repercussions, keep scrolling to learn about sustainable leather types you can incorporate into your wardrobe.

The Truth About Traditional Leather

For centuries, leather has been considered a durable material, becoming a staple fabric in many closets. However, the classic fabric has its flaws, most notably its unsustainable, unethical process, which consists of deforestation, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and water and land overuse. These adverse effects have led to the rise of several sustainable leather alternatives in an effort to reduce the environmental footprint. 

Leather alternatives to fall in love with

Mushroom Leather

Made from mycelium, the vegetative part of a fungus, mushroom leather is a plant-based fabric that meets the same standards of quality and appearance as traditional leather. Various luxury brands, including Hermès, have adopted mushroom leather into their pieces. This shroom boom will have a lasting impact on the industry and the planet. 

Piñatex Leather

Another vegan leather giving traditional leather a run for its money is piñatex. This innovative material was created by Ananas Anam to address multiple issues simultaneously, including sustainability and the welfare of communities. Additionally, pińatex leather allows pineapple farmers to make an additional income for a previously unusable part of their crop, making it a cradle-to-cradle solution that yields many benefits. Made with cellulose fibers extracted from pineapple leaves, this fun fruit leather has already gained some traction, as it was featured in Vogue for its appearance at the 2017 Met Gala. 

Leaf Leather

From pineapples to leaves, it turns out there’s an abundance of leather substitutes found in nature. Leaf leather is made from ethically sourced Teak leaves, which are then woven into fabric and sealed to preserve their natural appearance. Since there are no toxic dyes or harmful treatments involved in production, leaf leather is one vegan alternative taking the fashion industry by storm, making it easy, breezy to incorporate more ecological pieces in your collection.

Waxed Canvas and Organic Cotton

Arguably one of the more diverse vegan leather options, waxed cotton features the same qualities as its traditional counterpart while maintaining its eco-friendly label. It’s waterproof, pliable, and offers ultimate warmth and insulation for braving numerous climate conditions. Huckberry used waxed canvas to create their bestselling trucker jacket, which also made an appearance in HBO’S The Last of Us.

Cactus Leather

Cactus leather

Returning to nature once more, cactus leather was first debuted in 2019 by Mexico-based brand Desserto. This sustainable leather is made from nopal cactus leaves and is renowned for its supremely soft, comfortable feel – perfect for both the fashion and furniture industries. In addition, production is free of pesticides and herbicides and doesn’t require a single drop of water for the hygroscopic plant to grow, ensuring its sustainability. If you’re looking for a luxury canvas leather handbag to add to your collection, this Wolf & Badger tote is at the top of our list for its generous capacity and classic appearance. Not to mention, its eco-friendly design is sure to stick with us (no pun intended).

One fact remains clear: as consumers continue to demand more eco-friendly alternatives, brands must accommodate their requests to maintain an ethical, sustainable status. This sentiment remains true for leather goods. Fortunately, brands continue pursuing innovative methods and materials to secure the same quality, durability, and look of traditional leather, ensuring you don’t have to sacrifice your style when it comes to saving the planet. 

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