The fashion industry has long been notorious for its negative environmental impact, with leather being one of the most polluting materials. However, a new wave of eco-conscious designers is taking the industry by storm by shunning animal leather in favor of vegan alternatives.
According to the 2017 "Pulse of the Fashion Industry" report, published by the Global Fashion Agenda, Boston Consulting Group, and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, cow leather is the most polluting material in fashion, while silk and wool are among the five most environmentally damaging materials. The leather industry is notorious for its use of noxious chemicals, which not only contaminate the waterways but also put workers in tanneries at risk of developing cancer.
Eco-conscious designers are making a statement by shunning animal leather in favor of vegan alternatives, slashing their environmental impact in the process. In fact, 33 leading Indian designers agreed to give animal leather the boot after being contacted by PETA India and Lakme Fashion Week. They joined the likes of Anita Dongre and Purvi Doshi, who have been leather-free for some time. Many designers and brands are also creating stunning shoes, bags, and other fashion items using innovative new leathers made from pineapple leaves, cork, fruit waste, recycled plastics, mushrooms, mulberry leaves, coconut waste, and more.
Helsinki Fashion Week banned leather from its catwalks starting in 2019. Other examples of eco-friendly fashion initiatives include Stella McCartney's use of vegan leather made from mushrooms.
Top international brands including H&M, which partnered with PETA US to create and launch a global vegan fashion collection called "Co-Exist Story", offer numerous vegan styles. And the list keeps growing as more and more consumers demand cruelty-free, eco-friendly fashion.