Luxury leather goes vegetarian
The Future. Luxury brands are weaving new products using alternative leathers made from elements such as mushrooms. The innovations from companies that famously stick to their tried-and-true methods (and some that are merely trying to market their way to being green) show that the winners of the coming economy are those that pivot to meet changing consumer attitudes around sustainability.
Like milk, leather is undergoing an alternative revolution… and luxury labels want a piece.
- Hermès is remaking its famous Birkin bag with a mushroom leather substitute expected to drop later this year.
- The leather substitute, Reishi, has been created by a company called Mycoworks.
- Gucci created its own alt-leather called Demetra, made with 77% plant-based raw materials, which it plans on using in a variety of its products.
- Demetra will be exclusive to Gucci through 2022, but the brand will then share the material with interested companies.
It may not come as a surprise that genuine leather creation is not great for the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions stem from agriculture which leather manufacturing is part of.
As major brands like Nike and Adidas pioneer mass alt-leather adoption, Sara Anne Leeds, founder of sustainability blog and second market Rhymes with Orange, warns that some brands are trying to sneak their way into the growing sustainability market by “greenwashing” their products — or marketing something as more sustainable than it is.
If consumers want to be thoughtful about their leather consumption (or, really, any materials that negatively impact the environment), they may need to double-check that the products are what they say they are… or just buy genuine second-hand leather, which is still the most sustainable option.