Leathers made from fruit have been gaining ground with designers, retailers and consumers as they provide a planet-friendly, cruelty-free option when it comes to leather goods. As the impact of animal agriculture on the planet is well documented, fashion is realising that leather is part of the problem, and investing in cleaner, kinder alternatives such as leather made with plants.
Apple leather, made from waste deriving from apple juicing, is an up-and-coming material rivalling cow skins when it comes to look, performance, and durability. This smooth, supple fabric is created by dehydrating apple waste (seeds, pulp, peels, cores) and spreading it on a canvas to achieve a leather-like textile. The resulting leather is soft and breathable, but at the same time durable and resistant, making it perfect for accessories such as bags and shoes, that need to be flexible and hard-wearing at the same time.
Apple leather is also surprisingly versatile: it can be made to replicate the grainy feel of some animal leathers, or be given a smooth finish to mimic the sensation of butter-soft calf skin. Lending itself to a variety of looks and uses, it just might be one of fashion's new miracle materials.
Here at A Perfect Jane, we are big fans of apple leather – ours is sourced from Italian supplier Mabel Industries, who has recently obtained the USDA Certified Bio-Based Product certification. Its products are harvested in the Tyrol region in northern Italy, which boasts a big apple harvest and a thriving industry based around apple products, whose waste is repurposed to make this vegan leather. Mabel's product is PVC-free, and contains 35-50% fruit material blended with polyurethane as well as, occasionally, recycled PET.
There are many different fruit leathers - the reason I chose to work with apple leather is because of its strength”, says A Perfect Jane founder Suzanne Harper. “The production process of a long-lasting boot takes a lot of strength and heating, so the material needs to be really resilient.”
It took Suzanne a lot of trial and error to get to the correct choice, as other materials proved to just not have the necessary strength. She also stresses that apple leather isn't biodegradable: “It would not be possible to make boots from it if it were.” The material contains PU and sometimes other recycled plastics – but let's keep in mind that the quantity of these is much minor than traditionally made faux leather, and let's also remember that leather derived from animals isn't plastic-free. To keep it from biodegrading in the wearer's wardrobe, it is often coated in plastic, not to mention treated with a variety of harsh chemicals during the tanning process. So plant-derived products like apple leather are, in any case, a big step forward- and future innovations and improvements may help it take further steps towards biodegradability and getting closer to being plastic-free.
They also spare many animals from a life of factory farming, where they endure extreme crowding, often get diseases, and are subjected to mutilations such as castration, tail docking, branding and sometimes de-horning, all done without any pain relief. At the abattoir, many animals are killed while still fully conscious, due to stunning not working properly. The leather industry kills one billion animals every year – an apple-based alternative helps put and end to that, while making a pair of boots look amazing.