November 17, 2021 7 min read

Vegan leather options are booming as more people see the reasoning behind buying cruelty free fashion. But what is vegan leather made of? There are so many new options and ever evolving forms of vegan material. Often these combine innovative techniques and mind-blowing materials.

We wanted to share some of our favorites and ones that we find to be super interesting. This really goes to show that people are seeing the benefits in investing in a vegan future and creating new materials that are cruelty free and kind to our planet.

Microfiber

We love microfiber vegan leather at Doshi. This material behaves similarly to animal hide leather. This is due to it having a not woven base; animal hide isn’t a woven, so it behaves differently than a typical woven fabric. This microfiber suede base is then coated in polyurethane. This topcoat adds to the sheen and hand-feel of traditional leather.

By having that sturdy microfiber base, this material won’t crake and peel like cheaper PU (polyurethane leather) alternatives that have an overly flexible woven base. We take care to procure the most luxurious vegan microfiber leather from the best factories for our products. We have high standards, and we know what makes a quality product.

See more about our choice of materials here. (Add link to Doshi material page)

 A black bag with alligater print and silver buckles.

Mylo

This is an exciting new vegetarian leather alternative on the market. Lululemon, Stella McCartney, and Adidas have already joined the Mylo consortium and have started making products with this innovative vegan leather material.

Mylo is made from mycelium which is what mushrooms eventually grow from. Mycelium is renewable, sprawling and behaves like connective tissue, twisting and interconnecting. Scientists have found a way to grow this into a material that can be tanned and dyed. Science is pretty amazing!

Lorica

Lorica is a material that behaves quite similarly to leather. The cruelty-free alternative to leather is made from thin microfibers being soaked in resin and formed into a hide-like materials. What’s really amazing is that the resin has a microporous structure that is similar to the breathability of skin. This makes the material breathable, durable and soft.

Cork

Cork comes from the bark of the Cork Oak tree. Cork Oak forestry is considered the most sustainable forestry practices on the planet. You can harvest cork from the tree without harming it. In fact, this actually helps in the regeneration process of these trees!

Cork is made from cutting the bark into pieces, boiling it in water and then flattening and molding it into sheets. Often an adhesive is added to this mixture. Sometimes the cork is then sewn onto a polyester or cotton backing.

We at Doshi don’t consider materials with a separate backing less durable than materials that are a solid structure. But cork truly is a wonderful product that has a lot of positive environmental impact.

A cork oak tree; a dark brown, craggly barked tree in front of a green forest.

Piñatex

Made from pineapple leaves, Piñatex has been made into many accessories and shoes as a cruelty-free vegan leather.

Pineapple leaves are considered to be food waste, which makes this extra sustainable. This also creates an extra source of income for substance farmers. This material is coated with resin and that is the only part that is non-biodegradable. This makes Piñatex about 90% biodegradable. This cruelty-free leather option is growing in popularity, and for good reason!

A black sneaker with a white sole.

Recycled Rubber

Upcycling materials is a huge help to the environment. Many brands are beginning to see the benefits of using recycled rubber in their products. Much of the rubber comes from recycling old tires.

Rubber is very durable and water-resistant. This recycled material makes a great alternative to leather, especially if you are looking for a thicker leather-like material.

Black rubber car tires stacked together to form a wall.

Muskin/ Mushroom Leather

Many people remark on mushroom’s leathery smooth texture. Well, this has been capitalized upon and turned into a cruelty-free leather alternative. Mushkin is made from fungus spores that are grown together in an intertwined, woven pattern. This material is then tanned similarly to animal hide, but without the use of toxic chemicals.

Mushroom leather has a strong absorbency ability as well as the material also stopping the growth of bacteria. Such an intriguing material!

Malai

Leather made from coconuts? Well, sort of.

This amazing material is made from the agricultural waste of farming coconuts. Malai is made from bacterial cellulose that is collected from the waste coconut water of the coconut industry. This vegan leather alternative is flexible, water resistant, and free from toxic chemicals.

Malai can last from many years which is great. But what is even better is this material is biodegradable and can break down in any compost bin. Wow!

Paper

We are very excited about Kraft paper at Doshi. It is 60-90% biodegradable, which is a big win for our planet. This material is washable and durable and highly tear resistant. People are often surprised that paper can be a vegan alternative to leather, but it really is a great option!

What’s even better is that much of this paper is made of previously recycled paper, so we are taking some extra stress off of our environment.

Ocean Plastic

We all know that we have a problem with plastics polluting our oceans. Recycling plastic taken from the ocean and turning it into vegan materials makes a lot of sense.

We are already seeing many companies using plastic from taken from the oceans and turning into shoes, and active wear. We love that people are finding ethical solutions to aid our environment.

Waxed Cotton

Ye’ old vegetarian leather. Waxed cotton has been used as an alternative to leather since the 15th century! Cotton is dipped in wax, usually beeswax, so not vegan, but paraffin wax can be used for a vegan option.

Waxed cotton is water resistant and incredibly durable. What was originally used by sailors back in the day is still appreciated by many in modern times.

Mango Leather

This innovative made by Fruitleather Rotterdam. This company takes the wasted mangoes from the import industry and turns them into a pulp. This pulp is combined with certain additives, poured out, and then processed into a leather sheet. This material is then able to be treated to have a more leather-like surface or be embossed to mimic animal skins. This material is still fairly new, but it is very exciting.

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Kombucha Leather

Mix sugar, tea, and a kombucha SCOBY or a "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast,”. What do you get? A cruelty free leather alternative! Yes, you read that right. We can make a leather alternative from kombucha.

This material is essentially grown into a solid sheet. It can be grown into any shape or size; it just depends on the container it is grown in!

A glass jar containing an orange liquid with a whitish, stringy solid floating in it.

Corn Leather

This corn-based vegan alternative is made from corn pulp and polyurethane. The starch is extracted from the corn matter and then that is combined with other materials. Corn leather is quite durable and waterproof.

 Yellow corn kernels.

 

Apple Leather

Vegans love their fruits and veggies; why not wear them? This material is made from 20-30% apples. The pulp left over from juicing apples is made of cellulose. This cellulose is combined with other materials and turned into a vegan leather material.

Apple leather is a durable, animal friendly leather alternative that can be produced in a variety of thicknesses, colors and can be embossed. It can be highly personalized and used to make clothes, accessories, furniture and much more!

Cactus Leather

This material is made from brand Desserto. This brand out of Mexico took the abundantly growing nopal cactus. What is even better is that this material requires very little water to grow.

The cactus leaves are harvested, cleaned, mashed, left out in the sun to dry and then processed. The cactus material is then bonded to a backing, which does make it less sturdy than a solid single material.

This vegan alternative to leather can be made into anything that animal hides are used for. Desserto’s cactus leather has a 10-year lifespan and is made with non-toxic chemicals.  We are starting to see it being made into so many different things and offering another cruelty-free leather alternative to the market.

A green tote bag with top handles.

Wine or (Grape Leather)

Like some of the other vegan leather alternatives on this list, this vegan leather is made of by-products of the food industry. This material is made from grape peels and seeds that are the byproduct of the wine industry. The wine-based material is then bonded to a backing.

This material can be printed to look like various animal hides. But often this veggie leather is produced in wine-colored hues. We love that wine and vegan fashion has come together to make a brand-new vegan material.

Ligneah or NUO

Soft wood leather! NUO is made by taking thin wood veneer grown in sustainable forestry and then is bonded with a backing. This backing is usually cotton or moleskin (a softer cotton). Then the wood surface s lasered.

This material is flexible and can be coated if desired. The wood grain is visible on this vegan material which harkens back to its true origins.

Flexible Stone

Sound like an oxymoron? This material is made from thin layers of real stone. This unique fabric is created by supporting these thin stone layers with fleece and cellulose.

This vegan creation is more commonly used in interiors. We are starting to see this material being used in small vegan accessories. This material offers natural variations which adds more visual interest to whatever it made from this creative option.

Leather Alternatives That Don’t Hit the Mark

These animal-free leather alternatives just don’t measure up to our environmental standards as well as their lack-luster performance. We have better options!

PVC

PVC is also known as Vinyl. Vinyl is made from fillers, lubricants, and plasticizers. This material contains many chemicals as well as being very uncomfortable.

Due to all the chemicals, PVC production releases many toxic compounds and pollutants. As well as it ends up in a landfill which is extra problematic. This material technically doesn’t harm animals, but due to its negative environmental impact, we beg to differ.

PU

PU leather is a polyurethane coated fabric. The polyurethane coats a woven material which due to its flexible under structure causes the top material to stretch, peel and crack. This makes this item less durable and less attractive over time.

Environmentally, PU is better than PVC because it does eventually degrade over time. Also, the same fillers, lubricants and plasticizers used in PVC aren’t used in PU leather. There are still better options out there for both durability and attractiveness as well as environmental impact.

We are Passionate About a Vegan Future!

At Doshi, we are so happy to see the growing variety of vegan materials on the market. By buying vegan products, it shows the demand for new cruelty-free fashion options. The more we buy vegan, the more vegan options we’ll have and hopefully this will make the animal products obsolete.

This is why we are so passionate about making our high-quality vegan accessories!

 

 

Sources Cited

https://healabel.com/a-fabrics-materials-textiles/apple-leather

https://www.mylo-unleather.com

https://www.ananas-anam.com

https://mochni.com/these-are-the-most-eco-friendly-and-vegan-leather-alternatives/

https://materialdistrict.com/material/muskin/

https://made-from-malai.com/about/

https://www.greenmatters.com/p/kombucha-scoby-leather

https://luxtralondon.com/pages/apple-skin

https://www.greenmatters.com/p/vegan-cactus-leather-desserto

https://www.watsonwolfe.com/2020/07/13/vegan-leather-made-with-cactus-leaves/

https://www.parley.tv/oceanplastic#parley-air-strategy-1

https://www.howcork.com/blogs/news/cork-versus-leather

https://materialdistrict.com/material/nuo/

https://fruitleather.nl/home/

https://www.heddels.com/2016/01/waxed-cotton-mariners-steve-mcqueen-and-your-modern-day-farmer/


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