Scientists Have Turned Fruit Into Leather
Textiles have never been so tasty...
For those who don’t want to wear animal skins, but don’t want to wear the totally synthetic alternatives either, fruit is the answer…
Making bags, shoes, accessories and clothing out of animal skins is problematic for plenty of reasons; animals are slaughtered, massive amounts of carbon emissions are emitted, land is cleared, people tanning the skins often suffer, and their waterways are polluted.
The most commonly used alternative to leather, polyurethane, is far better for a lot of reasons; no animals are slaughtered, it has a far lesser environmental impact when looking at greenhouse gas emissions, water use, energy use and land use, among other things.
However, polyurethane is not perfect. It is made predominantly of plastic, which means petroleum oil mining. Two brands in particular were concerned by this, and began research and development into a vegan, mostly organically based leather alternative.
This is how fruit leather came into the world.
Passion for Pineapple
The first leather alternative material created was Piñatex, and is made predominantly of pineapple leaves.
(Image via Pinatex)
The development of this material turned what was originally a simple by-product that was discarded by an existing agricultural industry (fruit farming), into an innovative, world-first sustainable leather alternative.
The pineapple leaves are processed to extract the fibres, and these are manufactured into a non-woven substrate. The substrate is sent to Spain where it is finished.
(Image via Pinatex)
The base leaf fibre material is 100% biodegradable, the top coating, which makes up 10%-15% of the final product, is not. The top coating is made of polylactic acid (PLA), which is a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable biomass, typically from fermented plant-starch, made from plants like corn, cassava, sugarcane or sugar beet pulp. This means that petroleum is not used for the oil.
The silver crinkle Piñatex material can be seen below, in the beautiful Kinds of Grace's ‘Argen’ bag.
The second and even more recently developed material made from fruit, is apple-based leather, pioneered by NUWAII.
This innovative material is created by crushing apple remnants used by existing apple fruit industries such as the apple juice industry. This includes seeds, skins and cores that are otherwise discarded.
This fruit waste is made into a fine powder, which is blended with a traditional polyurethane to make a material which is 50% organic.
Another innovative part of this material is the backing. While most polyurethane materials have a woven backing made of polyester or another synthetic, NUWAII’s apple leather is backed on cotton which will biodegrade.
The results of this material are stunning, and can be seen in a bag from NUWAII’s own collection, below.
Both of these materials are free from animals and hugely sustainable, beating out both animal leather and polyurethane leather by a long shot.
While apple leather looks more like ‘the real thing’, Piñatex is creating a unique material that is making waves throughout the industry - with designer giants like Hugo Boss loving it.
The global vegan leather industry was valued at USD $25.61 billion in 2017, and as of 2019 it is estimated to grow to USD $45.41 billion by 2025, so we’re sure to see more of both of these materials in the future of fashion.