My most recent piece for Vilda Magazine highlights 5 different types of eco-friendly vegan leathers and the brands and designers who use them.
When it comes to vegan-friendly fashion, one of the most common questions and comments I field are about the quality and sustainability of so-called vegan leathers. There is a lot of misunderstanding and misconceptions with respect to the quality and environmental impacts of conventional leather (made from animal skins) and leathers that one would classify as vegan. Main stream fashion would have you think that conventional leather is the benchmark of luxury, quality, and a wise use of material (animal skin) that would otherwise go to waste. But, the use of animal skin for leather is a business in its own right and while it’s true that hides and skins are often sold as by-product of the meat industry, it’s important to understand that this is done to maximize profit – not minimize waste. Turning skins into leather is extremely resource intensive and is among the most toxic industries on the planet, so if minimizing waste is a factor you consider when making a purchase, then I would suggest reading about some alternatives that are better for both the animals and the environment.
The following was originally posted on Vilda Magazine, the very first digital fashion magazine devoted to inspiring compassionate living through elevated fashion, beauty, travel and lifestyle. vegan fashion.
5 Eco-Friendly Vegan Leathers to Love
Widely accepted myths or misconceptions are hard to dispel, particularly in the world of mainstream fashion where the quality and ethics of a product aren’t always clear. I find this is often the case in discussions about vegan leather and the misunderstood notion that vegan leather is, by nature, bad for the environment or of lesser quality than leather made from animal skins. This is frustrating to hear, particularly when you’re in the business of trying to promote fashion that is not only cruelty-free, but also of high quality.
I’ve written about it before, but I can’t say it enough: all vegan leathers are not created equal. Just as there are varying degrees of quality and craftsmanship in just about any commodity, there are varying degrees of quality and sustainability in fabrics and textiles that would fall under the very broad umbrella that is “vegan leather”. There are certainly fast-fashion stores marketing their accessories as “vegan leather”, but they’re probably cheaply made in a factory somewhere in Asia, where labour regulations and safety measures in factory are often no to implemented of enforced, and made from materials, like PVC, that are obviously not considered eco-friendly.
The market has been responding to the growing movement of consumers who wish to live more sustainably and be more mindful of their purchases, so we’re seeing an ever-increasing availability in the number of products that are ethically made and better for the environment.
So, if you want something vegan, but that is also made from materials that are more sustainable, consider these five vegan leathers that are eco- friendly and the brands who use them.
This truly natural and sustainable material made from the bark of the Cork Oak tree is having a moment in vegan fashion. This versatile material is well regarded for its ability to retain strength and durability, even when worked to the thinness of fabric. Jentil, an accessories brand based in London, produces their entire collection from cork harvested in Portugal. Jentil’s founder Pantxika Ospital remarks:
“Sustainable, recyclable and biodegradable, cork is simply an amazing material. It is soft, light, flexible, resilient, and waterproof. It can be dyed and finished in many styles. It is versatile, hard wearing and natural as natural can be! Cork is the ultimate ‘green’ material for the production of bags and accessories commonly made from leather, indeed it is widely known as ‘vegan leather’ or ‘cork skin’. It’s hard to believe that this beautiful material grows on trees.
Made from the bark of the cork oak tree, which grows in the Mediterranean region, cork is harvested every ten years, without harming the tree. The trees can live up to 250 years, contributing to wildlife diversity, helping in the fight against forest fires, providing a sustainable income for the local people.”
All of Jentil’s accessories are made from cork harvested from FSC certified forests. To further reduce their environmental footprint, Jentil utilizes water-based glues in their accessories and produces their collections at a manufacturer who is making efforts to be more sustainable, including recycling the dust created from cork production to heat the factory.
Continue reading here to learn about the 4 other eco-friendly vegan leathers.