September 25, 2023

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Shop Apple, Pineapple, Cactus, and Other Sustainable Vegan Leather Alternatives

There’s nothing that gets us more excited than fashion innovation, especially when it comes to innovation in textiles. The advent of vegan leather, for example, excited people, but the first iterations of this material were not always an environmentally-friendly alternative to animal leather. Vegan leathers have traditionally been fabricated from PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and Polyurethane—plastics that can cause a threat to the environment during and after its lifespan. But brands are continuing to innovate and as of late, plant-based leathers, derived from pineapple, apples, and other crop waste, have grown increasingly popular as a modern alternative to leather and plastic-based vegan leathers.

While some plant-based leathers still rely on chemical processing that includes Polyurethane to give them a leather-like quality, plant leathers are a significant improvement of those derived from plastic. But what makes a leather “good” or “better” is not so straightforward. A plastic-less textile might mean one that requires more water to develop. There’s no perfect leather solution, but there is merit to these newer, plant-based innovations, and many brands embrace them as a more sustainable alternative.

Newcomer Pangaia’s grape leather sneakers are zero-waste, made from grape leather repurposed from the Italian wine industry’s waste. “Each year, the global wine industry produces 26 billion liters of wine, which generates 6.5 billion liters of waste,” Pangaia explains in their brand’s literature. “This waste (grape stalks, skins, and seeds) can be turned into an environmentally-friendly leather alternative.” Another footwear company experimenting in the field is Allbirds. In February, the brand announced its investment in a textile innovation company, Natural Fiber Welding, for its Mirum technology—a leather alternative that does not use Polyurethane or other petrochemicals. A big step forward in the category.

It’s an exciting prospect that brands are reinventing wardrobe staples with increasingly sustainable practices. Just when you thought you couldn’t get excited about another pair of white sneakers or a new carryall, these plant-based leather pieces arrived. Here, shop the edit of plant-based leather picks below.

Photographed by Andres Burgos