Increasing aware of the environmentally negative impact of animal leather, savvy consumers everywhere are turning to plant-based alternatives – and apple leather is top of the tree.
By Sascha Camilli writer, speaker, activist, and vegan fashion expert.
It's about time fashion had a conversation about leather. A huge-scale killer, animal leather takes approximately one billion animal lives every year – and is also an important factor in the climate crisis. Meat-eating has been part of the environmental crisis conversation for years, but the fashion industry rarely pauses to think about the fact that leather is part of animal agriculture, which is a leading cause of climate change. Rearing and killing animals for fashion is incredibly polluting, resource-intensive, and harsh on humans – not only do leather tanneries emit toxic substances into nearby soil and waterways, but the people working in the trade are also at risk. An estimated 90% of all leather workers in Bangladesh will die before they are 50 due to exposure to chemicals.
Leather Made From Apples?
Concerned by these facts, the industry is increasingly turning to plant-derived substitutes for animal leather. One of these new, innovative materials is leather made from apples. Often a waste product from the juice industry, apple leather is commonly crafted from peels, cores, pulp, and other leftovers from juicing or puree products. The material is made by drying the apple waste and coating it onto a canvas. In some cases, polyurethane is involved, but in minor quantity than traditional 100% PU vegan leathers. This means that the material requires fewer fossil fuels than both animal leather and petroleum-derived faux leathers.
Most apple leather is made from apples from the Tyrol region in northern Italy, home to a large apple industry. Italian company Frumat developed the bio-based plant leather made from waste from the region's enormous apple industry, which produces jams, juices and other apple-based products. The material is now largely manufactured and supplied by Italian company Mabel Synthetics. It's used by companies such as Luxtra, Sylven, Ashoka Paris, and Komrads, to name a few.
What makes apple leather popular with ethical fashion labels isn't only its quality, breathability and resistance, but also its incredible versatility. This material can be made into a grainy texture to perfectly mimic cow skin, but also finished with a smooth feel to rival the most butter-soft calf leather. It can also be embossed and laser-printed.
These properties are appreciated by the vegan brands that are pioneering apple leather. One of them is Sylven New York – a brand that recently went 100% vegan. Its founder and creative director Casey Dworkin says: “One of the things I love most about apple leather – aside from its plant-based content and reuse of organic apple waste – is the overall look and feel. When I first started working with apple leather back in 2019, I was actually still making animal-based leather versions of my styles.
My goal was to introduce a plant-based leather that could sit on the shelf directly next to the exact same style in Italian leather and be virtually indistinguishable. With apple leather, the quality of the material is every bit as good as the expensive leathers I was using. Working with apple leather has actually opened the door for me to transition to my entire brand to be fully vegan, and I really have this material to thank for being a major catalyst for our brand's fully vegan transition.”
Apple leather can also be a key to producing locally. Casey says: “I love that apple leather comes from the Northern region of Italy. My supplier is just 45 minutes north of my factories, so it really helps to keep my supply chains lean and cut down on carbon emissions.”
Leather made from apples is just one way in which the fashion industry is working on moving away from harmful industries and building a safer, kinder and more stylish future of fashion. As more brands experiment with fruit leathers, it's increasingly certain that the future of fashion is vegan.
By Sascha Camilli
Shop our beautiful Apple Leather Collection of bags and accessories.
Sascha Camilli is a vegan fashion writer, speaker and activist. Her book Vegan Style is out now on Murdoch Books. For more about Sascha, you can read our interview with her. You can also follow her on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Cover image by LUXTRA
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