Leather as a fabric has been used for centuries. When our ancestors were eating the meat off of the animals they hunted, they soon learnt that certain skins were also pretty useful, and so leather was created for all kinds of material goods. Fast forward to present day, and we are still using this now luxurious material in our clothes, bags, accessories and even our furniture and home decor.
It is one of those beautiful materials, because it has the ability to keep us warm, it is even somewhat breathable, and the textured outer layer is just so unique. But we have come to realize that continuing to obtain this textile from live animals is not longer the best option.
You may have seen various documentaries about the livelihood of cattle stock such as cows, who are often crammed into the most unimaginable conditions. They’re lives from start to finish is all about the resources they can provide, from milk, having new calves, and then the beef and leather once they are chosen to meet their end.
This is such a horrific quality of life.
Not only that, but the more the numbers of cattle must grow for a market catering to these resources, the worse this is for the environment. Cows are one of the biggest contributors to one of the effects of climate change: global warming. Their ability as a collective to create tonnes of greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide is such a powerful force that is also so unnecessary in the bigger picture. If our demand for their resources wasn’t this high, then the risk of this contributing factor could be eliminated.
So their must a some sort of solution for the time being for this, right? As I always try to do, I try to scoop up some of the best suggestions as solutions that we can always turn to to help our planet just a bit more.
I’m a bit of an advocate of thrifting pieces, especially if they’re high-quality or from brands I wouldn’t otherwise afford full price. But if you want to find yourself some of that nice, real leather, I think that the best way is to find it pre-loved and second hand. I have talked about how good this is for the environment, how sustainable it is to use something that someone else no longer wants or needs, and this is even better if its still in great condition!
Second hand leather is everywhere these days. One of my bags is a second hand brown leather piece that was originally from the brand Clarks. This is a UK brand that are known for their good quality leather pieces, and they normally focus first and foremost on shoes. So my bag cost me about £25 pre-used, and later I tried to do some research on new leather bags at Clarks. I found that similar bags range from between £70 – £90, so the bag that I got that looked hardly used was a pretty good deal!
Another pro to pre-used leather goods is that they are softer to the touch. As leather ages, it’s exterior wears down, and the initially stiff leather becomes more flexible. This is just the beauty of age.
Faux Leather – Plastic
Since leather is so expensive, there has already been an alternative to the genuine leather industry – and that’s faux plastic leather. This is great as it doesn’t require animal parts to make this. This has been the basis for ‘vegan leather’ which is great for those that want to be more ethical while enjoying a leather look.
The only problem with this kind of faux leather is that it’s made of plastic. This is a bit of a divisive point, especially if you want to avoid brand new real leather goods. The environmental impact could be just as bad if plastic is newly relied upon so much.
Although plastic is already so widely used in the textile and fast fashion industry for it’s affordability, you can always opt to try to find and those that have been recycled. If you opt for mostly recycled faux plastic leather garments, then at least you know that it is saving the life of unwanted plastics, and keep it around more purposefully for longer.
Are there any other alternatives to genuine and plastic leather? Yes there is! And it’s very exciting because the world of science is always finding ways to make things work.
Yes, this is the newest, and maybe best idea to date. This also shows us how great plants are. So the new kind of vegan leather involves using fibers from plants to make these faux leather style fabrics.
It’s an amazing idea because it uses natural, eco friendly materials to create our favorite textures in a more sustainable fashion. So plastic leather no longer has to prevail.
Examples of sources that are used to be converted into faux leather include mushrooms, banana leaves, pineapple leaves, and other sorts of plants. This makes a lot of sense as plants are built with layers of tough fibers and molecules that can create a similar exterior to leather.
I think that the future is looking bright for the creation of a material that imitates leather, but can also be a safe presence in the world. Though we are not fully there with the invention of plant-based leather, since the plants must be processed quite a bit to get the right affect, there is definitely a future in this, since there are a lot of people who are determined to get to the right resolution.