As the cruelty-free fashion movement advances, innovative designers, such as those at Beyond Leather, are finding ways to create leather-like products, to support animals and the planet.
For fashion-forward individuals, family gatherings can be a frustrating experience, with unwelcome remarks made on hairstyles and jokes about ripped jeans.
But, Beyond Leather is far from a joke. For those who enjoy the texture and style of leather, but don’t want an animal to die for it, Beyond Leather has a solution: apple pulp.
In 2019, Denmark’s annual turnover of organic wine, cider and spirits reached 351m Danish kroner (€47m/£42m). With a lot of pulp leftover, the startup got to work on using it and have formulated a vegan leather.
Beyond Leather just won the Clim@ 2020 virtual competition for “Thinking outside of the box” in its design. Contributing to a circular economy is not the only positive impact of Beyond Leather.
The impact of leather on the environment
Of all the animals used in animal agriculture and those whose skins supply the fashion industry, cows cause the most harm to our planet:
- There are over 900m cows alive today (which peaked at over a billion, in 2014), all of which emit the greenhouse gas, methane. High levels of this gas are weakening the ozone layer, just like carbon dioxide emissions.
- Cows need up to 60 litres of water a day. An apple tree only requires one inch of water a week (for it to filter out carbon dioxide, produce oxygen and fruit).
- Brazil is rated as the second-highest producer of beef and leather in the world. To meet demand, farmers need more land. In 2019, this led to man-made forest fires across the Amazon jungle, a territory which provides 6% of the earth’s oxygen.
- In manufacturing leather, the process of tanning uses toxic chemicals, such as chrome. After use, the water-based waste is disposed of and can pollute local water sources, causing harm to communities.
If there were less, or no cows used in the fashion industry, each of these problems would have a reduced effect on the health of the planet.
Animal skin is falling out of fashion
Beyond Leather joins a growing fashion trend, that is rejecting the use of animals in the manufacture of their clothing. This is for both environmental and ethical reasons.
Vegan racing driver, Lewis Hamilton, approached employer Mercedes Benz and ask them to forgo using animal products in their vehicles (such as leather seating). The company are now looking into alternatives.
In 2019, Angela Kelly, dresser to Queen Elizabeth II, announced that from that year on, Her Majesty would wear only faux fur. Although, the Queen will continue to wear fur items already in her wardrobe.
There are cruelty-free brands such as Stella McCartney, and branches which offer vegan options like Topshop and Zara. By avoiding leather, they will all add towards lowering the levels of greenhouse gasses emitted into the fragile atmosphere of planet earth.
To clarify, there are differences between the two terms: “Cruelty-Free” relates to a product which has not been tested on animals, whilst a vegan item contains no animal-based ingredients.