Nine animal-free ways to make leather


In California, Entrepreneur magazine showcased nine startups that are looking to meet consumer  demand for sustainable, cruelty-free leather substitutes.

Vegan leathers made from fruit waste are among the most widely researched areas. VEGEA is using winemaking byproducts such as grape skins, stalks, and seeds to make vegan leather. “We are currently running the patent implementation stage and our objective is to be ready by the beginning of 2018,” VEGEA Founder Gianpiero Tessitore tells the magazine.

Also, The Apple Girl is using cider-pressing byproducts to generate leather that is 100% biodegradable, while Ananas Anam has developed a material called Piñatex from pineapple waste.

Vegetables are another source of leather alternatives. Grado Zero Espace in Italy is creating a number of vegan textiles, including a mushroom-based material resembles suede. The biodegradable material is softer and more breathable than conventional leather, the company says. Coronet is producing biobased  polyols from field corn with a smaller environmental footprint than petrochemical alternatives, while XXLab of Indonesia has developed a soy leather made from the liquid runoff from tofu production. XXLab has made prototype shoes, purses, and wallets with the material.

Wood-based alternatives to leather are also under development. Paper No. 9 creates vegan paper leather from recycled paper and fabric as well as natural glues, waxes, oils and emollients.  Pelcor of Portugal is developing a material based on cork skin that’s lightweight, waterproof, flexible, resistant and insulating.

Finally, researchers at Iowa State University and German startup ScobyTec have been using kombucha tea to make vegan leather.

The article notes companies like Land Rover, Tesla, and H&M are first-movers in adopting leather alternatives. “The attitude toward animal byproducts is changing,” Land Rover Design Director Gerry McGovern tells the Entrepreneur. “Personally, I’d be quite happy to move away from leather tomorrow. I don’t like that we have to slaughter all those cows to create leather.”