Vegan leather coat by Nanushka (Photo: Instagram)
Vegan leather coat by Nanushka (Photo: Instagram)

Hop on the vegan style bandwagon

A growing number of brands are coming up with bags and accessories made of animal-free leather. It’s a conscious, compassionate choice, they say
By Ruchika Garg, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON FEB 01, 2021 03:43 PM IST

Striving for a sustainable, compassionate world, British designer Stella McCartney launched the first vegan luxury label in 2001. She created her no fur, no leather, no feather designs that not just inspired other designers but also got a big thumbs up from celebs as well those who love to ace the leather look. Over the years, brands such as Prada, Versace, Victoria Beckham, Chanel and Paul Smith banned leather products made from kangaroos, also known as K-leather.

In the pandemic, as the fashion world focused on slowing down and making ethical and sensible choices, we saw a number of brands take to producing cruelty-free vegan leather items. Recently, Black-owned fashion brand, Telfar, won fashion design of 2020 by the London’s Design Museum for its vegan leather, gender-neutral bag.

Closer to home, Escaro Royale, started making vegan leather products when they couldn’t procure raw materials for their luxury shoe brand from Italy, Argentina and Brazil during Covid-19. The brand came up with leather products made up of peas and mushrooms that are compostable and biodegradable.

The vegan leather market is set to be worth $85 billion globally by 2025, according to a report by business consultancy Grand View Research.

What is vegan leather?

Also called faux leather, vegan leather resembles the original leather but no animal is killed to make it. Vegan leather is either made up of natural products derived from plants such as pineapple, mushroom, corn, cork, apple peels or other fruit waste or r`ecycled plastic (PVC). While PVC leather is non-decomposable, the plant-based leather gets decomposed easily. “There is a revived love for vegan fashion. Plant leather alternatives are completely environment friendly. We use discarded pineapple leaves and the scrap from cork trees for our products. Pineapple leather is composite, while cork is biodegradable,” says Yashraj V Rathor from Aulive, a Delhi-based brand that produces handcrafted bags.

Another startup, Kerala-based Malai (named after the cream of coconut) uses coconut waste, banana stem, sisal fibre and hemp fibre to make vegan leather bags and shoes.

Creative landscape

Along with being a compassionate choice, vegan leather also makes it possible for designers to innovate freely, unlike the real thing which is tricky to alter beyond a point. “I observed 100% vegan leather made up of flower waste in one of the fashion shows recently. Choosing vegan leather is a conscious decision. I am a vegan and I celebrate the change. One can be very creative with it,” says Rina Dhaka, fashion designer.

Agreeing with her, fashion designer Samant Chauhan, who has been experimenting with plant based leather says, “It has a very refreshing look and texture. It’s very contemporary and it has its own charm, and the noble cause behind it makes it invaluable. Also, one can make it more durable than the original one.”

These under-the-knees boots by Stella McCartney are made with sustainable beech wood (Photo: Instagram)
These under-the-knees boots by Stella McCartney are made with sustainable beech wood (Photo: Instagram)

Celebrity approved

Being a cruelty-free, ethical choice, animal-free leather is being celebrated across the world. A number of style icons have been promoting vegan leather. Hollywood actors such as Emma Watson and Meghan Markle, singer Miley Cyrus, model Kim Kardashian and Bollywood diva Sonam K Ahuja are just some of the names. In 2019, Los Angeles (LA) hosted one of the most successful Vegan Fashion Week, featuring designers across the world. In 2020, they launched a multi-brand showroom, the Vegan Fashion Library in LA. It claims to be the first fully vegan showroom in the world.

A proud choice

PETA says the global leather industry slaughters more than a billion animals every year for their skin. “When you choose a vegan product, you cultivate kindness,” says Shivani Patel, founder, Arture, a Chennai-based company that manufactures vegan leather accessories. “An awakening took place during the pandemic and people realised that sustainability and compassion is the need of the hour,” says Patel who believes that plant-based leather will change the face of fashion, making it kinder and more caring.

Author tweets @ruchikagarg271

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