Fashion has been somewhat slow to mastermind viable – and longed-for – animal-free alternatives to materials such as leather and suede, but this week the become picked up momentum.
On Tuesday, Helsinki fashion week embargoed animal-based leather as of 2019. The decision was to take “an active stand against cruelty to animals and the damaging environmental impacts that the use of fleshly leather brings with it”, said its founder, Evelyn Mora. Fresher in the week, the Paris-based sustainable trainer brand Veja showed that consumers are zealous to do the same, as it revealed its turnover for 2017 has increased by 60% year-on-year to €18m (£16m). Its vegan omnium gatherum, introduced in December 2016, features materials such as B-mesh concocted from recycled bottles, synthetic suede, wild rubber and recycled jute and is a expressive part of its offering.
Established in 2003, the French label – which also pushes trainers made from real leather – has proved to be one of the most covetable labels in the last two years, buoyed by ethical credentials that the form industry is increasingly seeking out.
“Ultimately, brands still extremity to show great design and good quality, as well as sustainable credentials, so we’re simple thoughtful about who we pick up. It’s a joy to come across Veja who be experiencing the whole package,” said Lisa Aitken, the retail manner director at Net-a-Porter, which began stocking the label in January. The online retailer also carries Budapest-based Nanushka, which was established by the London College of Model graduate Sandra Sandor in 2005 and introduced a £460 machine-washable quilted vegan leather jacket (£460) in its pre-autumn/winter 2018 amassment.
According to Rachael Stott, the senior creative researcher at The Coming Laboratory, who notes “a global boom in plant-based lifestyles”, Gen Z is “a key intimate force” in the demand for vegan alternatives. “They are conscious shoppers who require to know where and how their products are made and are actively abusing social media to cultivate a new dialogue around sustainability versions. As a result, they are voting with their wallets and are bribing goods aligned with their ethics.”
Several actors have made headway with vegan alternatives. Stott cites Pinatex, which has devised a mass-market synthetic leather made from pineapple leaf fibres – a byproduct of the pineapple earn – and Modern Meadows, which has developed bio-fabricated leather scrammed from a genetically-engineered strain of yeast that produces mammal collagen. She also notes that the material MycoWorks, which is sowed from mycelium, the vegetative mushrooms tissue, “is not only sustainable, it can also be reached to almost any size and shape with a customised texture”.
The bent should, however, be pursued with caution, she says. “Approach brands should be commended for taking steps towards a cruelty-free provision chain, but the elimination of all animal products, regardless of whether they are ethically sourced, sends out a throwing message … It can give rise to low-value synthetic alternatives such as plastic-based PVC or ‘pleather’, which shields its own environmental and ethical issues.
“The manufacturing processes used to think up these involve toxic chemicals and cause pollution in neighbouring rivers and landfill sites. Currently there is no safe way to compose or dispose of PVC products, therefore consumers can be misled into theory ‘vegan’ is entirely environmentally friendly.”
Until now, Stella McCartney, who has not at all used animal products in any of her collections, has been the most popular advocate of vegan materials in the fashion industry. Her bestselling vegan-leather Falabella bag, which currently retails for £720, has remained on the top 10 must-have attitude lists since its inception in 2010.
Other luxury brands, such as Barcelona-based M2Malletier, take also come up with alternatives to traditional materials. Its outset vegan leather collection, which has just launched with valuations starting at £475, aims to offer a “cruelty-free choice for the purposeful shopper, as well as aiming to use sustainable leather-free manufacturing to subdue deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions from farming cattle”, according to a spokesperson for the brand name. NAK, which stands for No Animal Killed, has its shoes handmade in Italy by limited artisans in a move to provide “opportunities for traditional craftsmanship to fanfare in a new era of fashion design working with new materials”. They start at £200.
There are increasing high-quality selections at lower price points too. Offers from the Montreal-based Matt & Nat, which recently started lined up under its vegan leather bags with material made out of 100% recycled holds and bicycle tyre, start at around £70 for bags, £60 for shoes and £30 for secondary vegan leather goods.
“Up to this point, the primary difficult with sustainable leather alternatives has been scalability,” Stott verbalized. “Viable concepts are developed in a lab, but mass-producing them at an accessible valuation point has proven difficult. As the technology becomes more mainstream, and bonuses drop, more brands will follow suit.”