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The importance of cruelty-free leather in our Luxury Vegan Leather Gifts and Designer Bags.

Updated: Jun 18, 2023

IKON Sweden Logo

Hardy and Christensen have chosen to work with IKON Sweden due to their commitment to creating wonderful, sustainable and ethical products, by hand in animal-free fabrics.

We have partnered with GUNAS New York in recognition of their inspirational commitment to sustainable fashion and high quality, cruelty-free Vegan Leather Bags and Accessories.

In this article, we look at Animal-Free Leather the sustainable and guilt-free alternative to traditional leather which forms the basis of the recently added IKON Sweden and GUNAS New York ranges of Vegan Leather Goods in our Store.

Animal leather is a non-biodegradable material and often heavily treated with caustic and toxic chemicals in order to stop decomposition. Despite the fact that it is seen as a by-product of the meat industry, its high demand has definitely caused an imbalance. As well as this, water pollution resulting from the leather industry is also worthy of consideration.

When looking at alternatives to animal based leathers, there are some important considerations as not all alternatives are equal.

Firstly, we consider the use of PVC (Poly-Vinyl Chloride) or PU (Poly-Urethane) based faux leathers. Not only is PVC made from toxic chemicals, but it also releases these chemicals into the air. On the other hand, PU leather does not contain animal products and does not produce any emissions. Ultimately, PU leather is a more ethical and environmentally friendly choice but perhaps still not ideal.

Plant-based and vegan leather are eco-friendly, biodegradable and sustainable alternatives to animal and polyurethane (PU) leather. Examples of these types of materials include:

Malai Leather

Malai proves its versatility in the form of card wallets, as it is not just flexible, durable and water resistant, but also natural. Its unique beige colour is even created from plant dyes instead of synthetic chemicals. There is no need to fear allergies or illnesses due to the lack of 'nasties' present in the vegan material. Of course, you could eat it....though such a waste for something so visually appealing!

Malai is a bacterial cellulose-based bio-composite material grown from agricultural waste from the coconut industry in Southern India. The natural polymer synthesised by bacteria is mixed with plant fibres (banana, hemp, sisal) and natural gums to improve its strength properties.

Malai can be kept for many years with proper care, or if you'd like to get rid of it, simply add it to your compostable waste. It will decompose without issue.

Coconut Leather

Coconut and coconut derivatives

Coconut biomass is used to develop a newly-created biocomposite material. It consists entirely of sustainable, organic bacterial cellulose, grown on agricultural waste sourced from the coconut industry in Southern India. The process involves local farmers and processing units gathering their coconut water that would otherwise be discarded, damaging the soil; instead, this liquid is re-purposed to feed the bacteria for cellulose production. One single coconut-processing unit can produce 4000 litres of water daily, yielding 25kg of cellulose.

Coconut leather is a PETA-approved vegan alternative with so many advantages. Its biodegradable and plastic-free composition offers Eco-friendly, safe wear that is also organic, cruelty-free and of the highest quality. It's a shining example of upcycled fashion that is both sustainable and kind to the environment.

Desserto - Cactus Leather

Desserto, the world's first highly sustainable, environment friendly organic material is made from Nopal cactus. Its harvesting process works by collecting mature leaves from the plant every 6-8 months without harming or cutting it. After cutting the leaves, they are exposed to sunlight for three days until achieving the right humidity levels - this process doesn’t require any additional energy. To produce one linear meter of cactus leather, 3 leaves must be used.

Nopal Cactus

Cactus leather is an incredibly sustainable vegan material that uses far fewer resources than any other plant-based option. It only needs 200 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of dry material, which is five times less than necessary for other bio-based materials. Additionally, cacti are able to absorb moisture from the environment in the form of rain water or morning dew, negating the need for extra irrigation. Furthermore, as long as 8 years can pass between harvests on the same plantation, making it far more efficient land-wise than other plants requiring annual harvesting.

Cactus leather production results in a negative CO2 emission due to the remarkable CO2 holding capacity of the cacti, which continues even when there is no sunlight, meaning that it can absorb CO2 at night. The 14 acres of land planted with cacti absorbs 8,100 tons of CO2 while the associated production farm only releases 15.30 tons annually.

Apple Skin Leather

Red Apples refracted through glass shapes.

The fabric Apple Skin, which was born in Bolzano, Italy, is a wonderful example of reusing something that may otherwise have been discarded. To make this vegan leather, the juice and applesauce industry's waste can be used to create Apple Leather. Not only does this material offer an alternative to harvesting new apples for leather production, but it also presents farmers with the chance to generate additional income from what was once considered useless. Furthermore, it produces a positive effect on the environment.

The process begins by taking apple skin, stem and fibers and drying them. Then, the dried material is ground up and mixed with a biodegradable plastic alternative made from milk protein, giving it the same feel as leather. With up to 50% bio-based content, this product is entirely vegan and without animal-based materials.

Using apple waste for fashion items is advantageous as an entirely renewable resource, reducing carbon impact in comparison to faux leather wholly sourced from non-renewable sources. As evidenced by its PETA seal of approval, this creative material serves as a great substitute for animal hide, whilst also demonstrating how waste can be repurposed into ecological luxury.

Cork Leather

Cork is extracted from the bark of the Cork tree by simply peeling it off, without damaging the trunk. This material can be obtained multiple times as it regenerates itself, making it a highly sustainable and renewable source. It is also known as a vegetable leather.

Cork Bark

Cork has some significant benefits, such as water resistance, it is anti-microbial, anti-static, durability and that's before we talk about its environmental credentials. Almost all cork products have no or minimal negative effect on the environment. Originally sourced from the bark of cork oak trees, it is possible to make use of them without chopping down these trees. Manufacturing processes generate no waste, with leftover materials recycled and combined.

Another contributing factor to cork's environmental friendliness is the lengthy period of time it takes for re-harvesting (every 14 years), making it one of the most rapidly renewable natural resources. With its recyclability, cork also helps to significantly reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere. This sustainability has encouraged cork industries to plant more cork oaks, meeting the increasing demand from buyers - thus creating a beneficial cycle that preserves and bolsters the environment.

These gorgeous Luxury Vegan Leather Gifts are available to buy from our store now.

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