Leather is a maker’s dream material. It cuts well; it holds a stitch; it can be dyed, stamped, or tooled; it’s warm but breathable; it’s strong but flexible.
But it has a heavy environmental footprint. Modern tanning uses chromium salts to cross-link collagen fibers, creating large quantities of wastewater. And, of course, the hides mostly come from the meat and dairy industry, which many people consider environmentally unsustainable.
A concern for sustainability is a common thread among the entrepreneurs who are working to bring leather alternatives to market. These aren’t the synthetic pleathers found in cheap shoes and purses. Leatherlike textiles made from nonanimal sources, sometimes called vegan leathers, are positioned as premium products for high-end goods.