When pursuing a vegan lifestyle, we do it not only for animal welfare but to benefit and preserve our environment as well. A vegan diet is relatively straight-forward to maintain when it comes to scanning the grocery shelves and produce isles, however purchasing vegan accessories, clothes, and the like can be a much trickier front to tackle. When shopping for vegan products, it can be tempting to read any label denoting ‘vegan’ and accept its credibility without any further research regarding its origins. In the case of vegan leather, you could be making an egregious error against the environment if you don’t take time to do your research.
Though there are options for truly eco-friendly vegan leathers, a concerning amount of vegan leathers are produced with damaging ingredients like polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane, and textile-polymer composite microfibers that all come with their own array of negative side effects. Steering clear of these harmful faux-leathers may take some extra effort, but we’ve made a list of several true vegan and eco-friendly leather alternatives you can keep an eye out for on the shelves!
Unlike your disintegrating bed-room cork board, cork fabric won’t crack or crumble. Cork ‘leather,’ or cork fabric, retains the qualities of its raw cork form, in addition to being produced totally chemical-free. Not only is cork fabric 100% natural and vegan, it is soft, water-resistant, scratch-proof, lightweight and stain-resistant. Not to mention how charmingly rustic and stylish it is!
Though cork is common among smaller eco-friendly brands, larger companies, such as Chanel and Louboutin, have adopted it as well. Check out some of their quirky adoptions of cork fabric below!
Recycled and upcycled rubber has been used to create numerous products from lamp shades to jewelry, and the results are definitely not disappointing. Inner tubes from various tires already exhibit a leather-like texture, allowing recycled tires to provide a comparable leather alternative that’s both fashionable and eco-friendly. Stylists continue to get innovative and creative with recycled rubber, cutting it to create different designs and textures like faux-feather accessories, making it an excellent option for people who like to spice up their leather accessories (and without the cruelty)!
Similar to cork, tree bark leather or bark cloth is made from a natural material and doesn’t include any dyes or other harmful additives. Additionally, production per square meter of this material requires less than one liter of water and is typically made from easily replenish-able wood sources. Tree bark is a particularly durable leather alternative, and with harmless processing can be made thin and flexible- enough so that it can be used to make certain clothes in addition to accessories.
One of the most innovative leather alternatives, Pinatex, is made from the fibers of pineapple leaves and is a unique, sustainable way to design trendy products. Not only is this material 100% eco-friendly and vegan, but is also very durable and water-resistant. With a similar touch and feel to cow leather, Pinatex is versatile and can be used to create a variety of products from clothes to furniture!
Despite the sound of it, don’t be too quick to judge the quality of leather crafted from paper! There are multiple companies utilizing this exceptional style of faux-leather and in various modes. One particularly notable brand based in Tuscany, Uashmama, creates their products from cultivated plants rather than contributing to unsustainable deforestation tactics, making their products not only vegan but eco-friendly too. Paper leather products are undeniably stylish as well, ranging from worn and rustic to sleek and luxurious!
That’s right: wine leather. Perfect to wear for your ladies’ night out, wine leather is developed from grape stalks, seeds and skins to create a soft, strong and realistic leather alternative that is both sustainable and cruelty-free. Companies like Vegea are pioneering this unique wine technique, creating fashionable designs for shoes, bags, accessories, clothes and more. Now we’ll definitely raise a glass of wine and drink to that!
Waxed cotton is no new-comer to the material market. Originally intended for water-proofing in early English and Scottish sailing industries, waxed cotton has developed its name throughout the fashion industry and found its way to the shelves of big designers such as Marc Jacobs. There are many ways to manufacture waxed cotton, so it may be a little trickier finding a perfectly vegan-friendly product – as beeswax may be used in some cases – but, in general, the product is considerably more eco-friendly than typical leather- plus much easier to wash!
One of our favorite vegan leathers, slate stone cloth has a smooth, yet distressed, aged appearance that you might look for in a genuine leather product. Aside from its obvious durability – it’s solid as stone! – coolstone is surprisingly soft, and continues to get softer through wear and tear. Though it’s relatively new to the market, coolstone leather is bound to be a hit and it’s not hard to see why!
Though kelp leather hasn’t become too widespread, the process of making it is relatively straight-forward and produces great results! Kelp leather requires a method similar to generating real leather, except without an array of harmful chemicals involved. One student in Korea developed a project to use kelp leather in manufacturing a slipper, wallet, handbag, pouch, and tassel, and the outcomes are looking good! The end result is something flexible and durable that reasonably compares to genuine leather products and other successful alternatives.
Leaf leather is a beautifully natural way of creating fabric from sustainably harvested Teak leaves! Teak leaf-made items have a unique look, and it’s no wonder their use is becoming more widespread, with several companies emerging based around the leaf leather fabric. Nina Rossler started her own ethical fashion brand on Kickstarter, where you can buy various stunning Teak leaf products that are sustainable, cruelty-free, and fair trade. Support Nina and others like her who are taking initiative to create these amazing vegan, eco-friendly designs!