What are some of the vegan alternatives to leather?

You’re probably here because you’re someone that’s mindful and tries to avoid harming and consuming animals, whether it’s their meat or skin. So I think you’ll agree with me when I say that  leather as a material is not necessary. While leather is seen by some as a sustainable option (as a by-product of the meat industry), it’s just not an option for those of us who choose not to consume meat in the first place.

We launched STORY 81 with the belief that animals don’t need to be harmed for their meat or skin or to be used to create fashion accessories for our consumption. We had one goal in mind – to create a product that’s beautiful, but doesn’t come at a cost of harming animals.  We knew that our community of mindful women shared this vision too.

Vegan materials were our way forward and we started with Polyurethane (PU), a material that’s kinder to the planet than Polyurethane (PVC) - something we’ve never used. We know that the use of PU is not perfect, but we’re striving to reduce its composition in our handbags where possible and are excited by the options that are available.  We want to take you on the journey with us, and share with you some of the materials we’ve been exploring - can you guess which one we’ll be using for our next product launch?


How is AppleSkin™ apple leather made?

Made in Italy, AppleSkin™, or apple leather as it’s also commonly called, is a bio-based alternative made from the leftover waste from the apple juicing industry. The leftover pulp, which would otherwise go to waste, is dehydrated to remove the moisture and turn it into a powder, which is then combined with Polyurethane to create this vegan leather.

What are the benefits of using apple leather?

Apple leather is coming from renewable sources, reducing the carbon impact compared to other faux leather materials.

Coming from a waste product that would otherwise end up in landfill, apple leather allows us to turn something that is classed as waste into a beautiful product, giving the apple waste a new lease of life. An upcycled material that’s breathable, cruelty-free and kinder than leather, apple leather is widely used for footwear and furniture due to its durability, so it’s an ideal material for hardwearing accessories such as handbags.


How is Piñatex® pineapple leather made?

The raw material that forms the base of Piñatex® starts in the Philippines with the pineapple harvest. Once the pineapple harvest has passed, the remaining plant leaves are collected and the long fibres are extracted via machines. The fibres are washed and then left to dry in the sun, or in ovens during the wet season. Next comes the purification process to remove any impurities, leaving behind the fluffy pineapple leaf fibre (PALF) which gets mixed with a corn based polylactic acid (PLA) and undergoes a mechanical process to create Piñafelt, a non-woven mesh which forms the base of all Piñatex collections.

Image credit: Ananas Anam 

The makers of Piñatex®, Ananas Anam, state that “the rolls of Piñafelt are then shipped by boat from the Philippines to Spain or Italy for specialised finishing. To make the Original, Pluma and Mineral collections, the Piñafelt is coloured using GOTS certified pigments and a resin top coating is applied to give additional strength, durability and water resistance. A foil is heat pressed on to create the Metallic collection and a high solid PU transfer coating is used to create Piñatex Performance.”

What are the benefits of using pineapple leaves?

As well as being a cruelty-free, natural, durable and sustainably-sourced material, the creation of Piñatex® provides an additional income stream for farming communities. It was also interesting to find out from Ananas Anam that “264 Co2 tons saved by using instead of burning 825 tons of waste leaves from the pineapple harvest – the burning of which would release the equivalent of 264 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. This is equivalent to charging more than 33 million smartphones.”

Piñatex® is being used for fashion accessories and upholstery and has been used by over 1000 brands worldwide.

Image credit: Ananas Anam 


How is Desserto® cactus leather made?

Made from Nopal cactus (also known as the prickly pear), Desserto® is grown organically without herbicides or pesticides in the Zacatecas state in Mexico. The mature leaves of the plant are cut away without damaging the cactus itself, and a new harvest emerges every 6-8 months. The mature leaves are then dried under the sun, with the organic raw material processed as part of Desserto’s® patented formula.

Image credit: Desserto

What are the benefits of using cactus leather?

There is no irrigation system used for the cactus which saves on water consumption - it grows with rainwater and the minerals from the earth which are rich in Zacatecas and great for the variety of cactus that is planted. Once the mature leaves are removed, the cactus is left intact to continue harvesting from the same plant.  Any remaining organic cactus material that is not used in the process is utilised in the food industry.  Desserto® is another cruelty-free, natural, durable material used in the fashion industry as an alternative to leather.

Image credit: Desserto


It’s been so interesting to learn about these kinder, less harmful alternatives to leather. At STORY 81, we’re developing our next collection and will be launching with one of these materials. To be the first to hear about our launches, join our email list here.