From slaughtering cows and subjecting them to cruel living conditions, to using large amounts of water, the leather industry has been condemned by environmentalists. Luckily, there are various vegan and plant-based alternatives for those who enjoy the sleek aesthetic of leather.
Vegan leathers have been made from cactus leaves, pineapples, corn, and apple peels. Now, vegan grape leather, also known as "wine leather," is the newest plant-based leather to make its way into the eco-friendly fashion industry. It's made from the byproducts of the wine industry, known as pomace, including the stalks, pips, and skins of grapes and traditionally used as organic fertilizer or to feed animals.
The wine leather is mostly used in bags and shoes, and there are several companies that have adopted it. Vegea, a Milan-based company, strives to create sustainable materials made from biopolymers, polymers that are produced from living organisms, most often plants and trees. On March 26th, 2020, mainstream brand H&M released its Conscious Collection which features Vegea's wine leather.
Vegea's wine leather doesn't need much water to be produced, and the water that is used is recyclable. Additionally, while animal leather goes through a tanning process that uses many toxic chemicals proven to be harmful to leather workers, the wine leather doesn't.
Although Vegea's wine leather is mostly used in shoes, accessories, clothing, and bags, the company is now working to expand and produce upholstery and car seat covers, demonstrating the versatility of plant-based leathers.
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