We often get asked: If you're not using leather than what is it?
We most often get the question - if it isn't leather than what is it made of? Among the different materials available to replace leather, we use Microfiber PU leather. Of course there's no animal content in the material but we preserve the moniker "leather" to give people an idea of what the material will feel like. Microfiber is the key term as it Microfiber based vegan leather is the highest grade of synthetic leather commercially available in the market today. The material has a microfiber backing and a small amount of polyurethane on top to create the effect of leather. The resulting material is generally very strong and often outperforms leather in durability tests. Microfiber suede generally does not require any polyurethane at all.
The vegan leather that looks like animal leather (Microfiber) actually performs and lasts like high quality animal leather. Ordinary PU (top left) is just a cheap substitute.
Not all synthetic leather is made equally. Microfiber PU is the only true "vegan leather."
In the manufacturing world, most companies use alternatives to leather to make lower grade products. These alternatives often lack durability on many levels - peeling, crocking and tensile strength to name a few. These lower grade products have hardware and construction methods that match the quality of the material. This is by no means an attempt to scare you from trying low cost non-leather alternatives. It's to reveal our learning and to educate you. Manufacturing is a cost driven industry and so to varying degrees, you get what you pay for. We never wanted to put cheap products into the market and so most of our products will use forms of microfiber leather or microfiber suede. We avoid using pure non-microfiber polyurethane in almost all of our goods and almost never use PVC (polyvinyl chloride).
Microfiber leather and microfiber suede are the only true animal leather alternatives as they were intentionally made to mimic the hand feel of leather and often outperform leather in durability. Of course microfiber leather has several grades as well. We continuously look for materials that meet higher performance standards.
Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Materials
While our microfiber based vegan leather is an amazing material, our long term goal is to shift our material use away from petroleum based products and use materials that are recycled, recyclable, and biodegradable. To that end, we have been using Kraft Paper, an ultra-durable paper which does not breakdown when wet. Kraft Paper is an under appreciated material that is lightweight, durable, and to large extent, biodegradable. The core component of Kraft paper is cellulose.
We also introduced cork, which we appreciate but are not completely in love with because cork materials do not stand on their own. They require a backing which is often polyester. However, cork points us in the right direction, moving towards plant based materials.
Perhaps the most exciting and well known material we will soon have products made from is Pinatex. We have started production with Pinatex (derived from waste pineapple fiber) and will have products available early in 2021. Pinatex is most of what we are looking for in a material. It is up to 80% biodegradable and starts off as plant waste from pineapple harvests in the Philippines. The company making this material, aims to make it 100% biodegradable over time. Our only issue with this material is price. It is an expensive material, 3 to 4 times more expensive than our high end microfiber leather and 30 to 40 times more expensive than ordinary PU (low end imitation leather).
We often have friends ask us if we've seen some of the materials made from the waste of mushrooms or pineapples. We're super excited about finding non-petroleum based materials. We went out and contacted the mushroom leather supplier. Their cost of materials is (no exaggeration) 20x to 100x the cost of a high quality microfiber leather available in the market today. It's rather impractical. When the cost of these materials and availability becomes more reasonable, we'll provide those materials to you. And here's another way to think about it, instead of us producing a mushroom leather briefcase that we'll market for $1,000, buy one of our's for $200, give the $800 to a responsible charity that supports the causes you believe in and know that you've made a greater difference in everyone's life. Smart is better than novel.
We push and specify that our suppliers use quality components. Our philosophy is simply that if you don't have to replace your goods that much longer, we don't have to use resources to replace that product.