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13 February 2022
Vegan leather continues to grow in popularity as more consumers are educated about the leather industry and their cruel treatment of animals.
As we become aware of and head in the direction of a sustainable and compassionate lifestyle, it is no surprise that vegan leather has made many technological advances whereby some clothing items and handbags look and feel very much like real leather.
However, the majority of vegan leather is still produced using PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) or PU (Polyurethane). Both PVC and PU are by products of petroleum and therefore made from plastic polymers.
As the saying goes - plastic is forever, it’s no surprise that it is not biodegradable and means that every bag or clothing item manufactured using PVC or PU to date, possibly still exists today in some landfill on this planet. Scary thought!
This is why vegan leather is also known by its slang name, Pleather - Plastic Leather. It can also be referred to as Faux Leather, Imitation Leather, Synthetic Leather and Leatherette.
In preferring an item that has no animal content, are we compromising in the environmental aspect?
My argument would be, Yes!
Clothing and bags made from plastic are hazardous to human health and the environment. Synthetic fibres from clothing are the biggest source of microplastic pollution in the ocean.
Microplastics in our waterways and in our oceans is not new news - we’ve all heard of this so why is it still popular?
Because it’s cheap, easy to procure and manufacture and let’s face it - there is a big market for it.
In fact, when high-end brands release their garments and bags, the first-copy markets are a buzz and create astonishingly “real” versions using plastic.
In every developing country, the first-copy market is a thriving market which sells possibly as much volume as the original brand itself! No surprise that these fakes have been a key contributor to adverse effects on the environment such as fossil fuel extraction, abundant water and chemical usage.
So when you consider the all these factors - the extraction of fossil fuels, use of chemicals, non-natural dyes and excessive use of water to create a non-biodegradable plastic leather - the environmental friendliness of vegan leather is nothing short of concerning.
As innovation and technology advances, there are brands out there that are using plant-based leather made from pineapples, mushrooms and cactus to produce beautiful products. Possibly the most recognised brand is Piñatex which manufactures leather made from pineapples.
Piñatex pineapple leather is already used today by fashion giants like H&M, Hugo Boss, and Paul Smith. More than 500 manufacturers have used Piñatex since its commercial launch in 2015.
The pineapple industry harvests about 27.5 million tons of pineapples and generates over 76 million tons of waste pineapple leaves each year globally.
Pineapple leather allows farmers to generate additional income by sorting and selling long leaves suitable for fiber production, instead of burning them or leaving them to rot.
Pineapple leather isn’t 100% sustainable but it is a far better option to PU or PVC “plastic” leather.
If you want to start living a more sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle, the biggest impact you can have on the environment is to refuse fast fashion which is made from cheap, synthetic materials; shop less and if you do shop, then, buy from second-hand stores and choose, up-cycled goods.
At Karuna Dawn, we’ve chosen not to produce any bags using PU/PVC due to the environmental impact. Though no animals are harmed in its production, the negative impact to the environment does not make it a lesser evil.
Instead, we've chosen to produce all our bags using sustainable and environmentally conscious materials such as 100% organic cotton; Grass reeds that are hand-woven into beautiful baskets and bags and my favourite, 100% up-cycled denim bags made from jeans that would have otherwise gone to landfill.
Your choice has power - choose quality over quantity; choose organic, natural materials over synthetics and head in the direction of the kind and compassionate choice.
We are so excited to share with you in the coming months the launch of our latest range featuring leather made out of leaves! We are partnering with an ethical production house in Thailand to bring you beautiful bags, purses and journals. These will definitely fly off the shelves so be sure to sign up to our newsletter to get exclusive access to these beauties!