The production of traditional leather is not just an ethical concern of rearing and slaughtering of animals. Its consequences on the planet and human beings alike are greater. The leather and tanning industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world and probably ranks the highest in the fashion world as well.
Considering the damage caused by production of animal leather, vegan leather fabric definitely seems like a sustainable approach towards finding alternative leather options to animal products. But is it really?
The introduction of eco friendly vegan leather is a welcome revolution in fashion. It is an animal-friendly alternative to the traditional leather industry. The delinquency of the leather industry is not just limited to harming animals for their by-products. It also involves using a variety of harmful chemicals to manufacture leather from their skin. This, combined with poor waste management systems in the countries that rear animals to produce leather, puts its people and the overall environment at an alarmingly higher risk.
A solution, or is it really?
The need to find alternatives to this cruelty was dire, especially in the fashion industry. Thus, came along plastic based faux leather that was made using compound polymers of fossil fuels like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane (PU).
However, these too require to be treated with toxic chemicals to attain properties of leather-like absorption, breathability and something that could match leather durability. And their plastic elements meant they would take centuries to biodegrade. A drawback that is hard to ignore.
Finding sustainable leather alternatives that fit into our lives doesn’t happen overnight; certainly not in the fast-paced fashion industry. But the intentions to find a workable solution to the problem has not come undone. Creativity and newer technologies have enabled forward-thinkers to find the philosopher's stone that is plant-based vegan leather.
A fruit or a fungus?
The everlasting debate of the sustainability of eco friendly vegan fabric has led to significant innovations. Extracting fibres from leaves to food waste to recycled materials, vegan leather is another step forward in finding new alternatives to non-animal leather forms. The use of organic resources means they offer a better solution to the environmental impact of its counterparts and also create employment opportunities.
The innovations are phenomenal, as are the raw materials out there - cork, rubber, Washi, coffee grounds, apples, bananas, grapes, pineapple, teak leaves, mushrooms, kombucha, coconut and vegetable oil, and even cactus–who knew!
However, these plant-based raw materials still need adhesives to hold the cellulose fibres together and they almost always require 10% to 60% plastic polymers to construct a durable material, eventually contributing to the micro-plastic pollution.
Pruning the impact
According to a report by Kering, the impact of vegan leather on the environment is only a third that of animal leather. And while the goal of vegan leather fabric is to eliminate the use of animal products entirely, the pertinent question remains - is vegan leather just no animal leather? Or is it also gentle on the environment? Are we filling the world with more plastic in the process of saving animals?
The vegan leather market is predicted to be worth $85 billion by 2025. This makes it even more necessary to recognise cruelty-free, ethically produced, low-impact vegan fabrics. With the ever-innovating material industry, we too have discovered our perfect answer to a no animal, no plastic solution - Mulbtex™.
Mulbtex – Our superstar
100% plant-based, 100% plastic free, 100% cruelty-free, 100% fashionable.
MulbTex is made out of mulberry leaves. We extract the silk protein from the leaves directly and do not harm the silk-worms in the process. We use a technique patented by our Korean artisans wherein a cotton canvas is laminated using layers of compressed paper and glazed using mulberry tree sap to give leather-like texture. MulbTex is weather-proof, water resistant, durable and extremely light.
The way forward
Sustainability has become such a buzzword in recent times that sometimes it may feel like a trend rather than a purposeful utilization of our resources. But we cannot undermine the relentless efforts of fashion designers who were determined to find various options for sustainable leather.
Both conscious fashion and conscious consumerism have made impressive progress. But we still have a long way to go. To understand how sustainable your vegan leather product is, it is important to ask a few questions. How and where is the vegan fabric sourced from? How is the raw material turned into a leather looking finesse? What goes on behind the scenes? How does your purchase impact the artisans? If your vegan pick has synthetic elements, what is the composition? How does it affect our resources and environment?
Sustainability in the fashion world still has its grey areas, even in vegan fashion. The manufacturing processes have an impact on the environment, no matter how minute. But, with designers recognizing the need of the hour and a whole new community of buyers switching to more responsible choices, veganism is revolutionising the fashion industry. The process of achieving sustainable goals ultimately rests in personal choices, ethics and values. We are getting there, one step at a time!