2020 forced us to take a pause and re-evaluate our life choices. Personally speaking, amidst the lockdown, for ethical reasons and to adopt a lifestyle with fewer carbon implications, I decided to go vegan for a while in July 2020. Coming from a Punjabi household, my parents were quite against it, given I could no longer have ghee or curd. But once I started finding substitutes to many key ingredients in my diet, I realised that I was subconsciously also training my mind to be more mindful of what ingredients go into the products I consume. Labels (for the first and only time) on products became my best friends. When you train your mind to make better choices, it starts extending to other aspects as well and stops being limited to just food.
I, for one, have always been against leather products and while having sisters always meant hand-me-downs, I realised that there was still so much in my closet that needed to be changed to more sustainable options. I, like many, am guilty of being a consumer of fast fashion and not being conscious of the environmental impacts that the fashion and clothing industry has.
We might have ditched fur and leather for the faux alternatives, which might be vegan, but still, strain quite a lot of resources like water (used in high amounts for these synthetic alternatives). Here are a few homegrown brands that have moved to plant-based vegan alternatives to give our wardrobes the sustainable revamp it needs.
Vegan Alternative: Cactus Leather/ Cork Leather
In 2019, Mexican company Desserto was able to make organic, all-natural cruelty-free leather from cactus. Homegrown company Arture was eager to introduce this alternative to the Indian market, and so they did! True to their signature accessories, they have now introduced merchandise made of cactus leather. The first in the series is vegan pouches made of the vegan leather. They even go so far as to ensure that their procurement process is sustainable and the plant is only trimmed (not killed) so that its pads can regenerate. You can read more about their organic & sustainable cactus leather pouches here.
Being a vegan and sustainable PETA-certified brand, they have also been using cork leather, cannabis hemp, and Himalayan nettle which are other plant-based alternatives to animal leather since their inception. All their products are 100 per cent sustainable and are naturally grown and harvested.
Shop their collection here.
Vegan Alternative: Pineapple Leather
As the new world paces towards a sustainable ecosystem, consumers have started to demand conscience and ethical practices. Taking up this challenge is Aulive, a sustainable brand, which labels itself as “Genuinely Not Leather.” While all their products are manufactured using ethically-sourced artificial leather, it was with their ‘Piña Collection’, started in 2019, that they started using the ever-intriguing pineapple leather.
The wallets and slings in the collection are made from Piñatex®, a type of vegan leather made entirely from the fibres in the pineapple plant’s leaves. They source their pineapple leaves from the discarded batch during the pineapple harvest season, thus reducing the environmental strain on acquiring resources. To add to it, the plant-based leather alternative used in this collection is both long-lasting and biodegradable. You can read more about the brand here.
Click here to check out the Piña Collection.
Vegan Alternative: Weganwool
Belonging to a family of weavers and the Devanga community, Gowri Shankar, the founder of Weganwool – a cashmere feel fabric made entirely from vegan wool – decided to create an end-to-end sustainable brand with ethical practices. Vegan wool is made from the fibres extracted from Calotropis, a wild flowering shrub which is known to grow in otherwise barren agricultural conditions.
With its headquarters near Auroville, Puducherry, Faborg in making a steady entry into the fashion industry with over 400 per cent increase in their enquiries in the pandemic induced lockdown (as told to The Hindu). The future of fashion can only be sustainable and Faborg is redefining the game with its chemical-free processes and paving a way for many in the industry.
You can learn more about them here.
Vegan Alternative: Coconut Leather
Malai is countering industrial pollution created due to the leather industry by developing biocomposite substitutes to leather using sustainable bacterial cellulose, grown using agricultural waste sourced from the coconut industry in southern India. The brainchild of Zuzana Gombosova and Susmith Suseelan, the idea arose from Gombsova’s deep interest in exploring the potential of microorganisms as a resource to create sustainable alternatives. However, upon realising that multiple oil mills and coconut processing units in Kerala generate quite a lot of raw material that ultimately goes to waste, they decided to eventually use that instead.
Malai, or the raw material that acts as the base for all the material and goods created by the label, is completely biodegradable and vegan. It is a flexible, water-resistant, and biocomposite material that has the look of leather and a feel closer to that of paper. You can read more about the brand here.
Check out their products here.
Vegan Alternative: Coconut Shell Buttons
Moved by the cause of suicides by farmers across India, No Nasties emerged as a brand that wishes to tackle this issue at the grassroots level. By having organic and fairtrade (no child labour, no forced labour and no dangerous factory conditions) practices, they ensure that those who participate in the production of products are paid their due and live a dignified life.
With its heart in the right place, the brand takes pride (as they rightly should) in the fact that they are India’s first certified Fairtrade brand. Their website reads, “No Nasties garment is a labour of love – love for the planet, love for fellow beings, love for good design.”All their garments are 100 per cent organic, down to the very detail with even the buttons being made from coconut shells to ensure no bones, shell or plastic is used.
You can shop their collection here.
Vegan Alternative: Mushroom Leather
Shoes! We can never have too many, can we? But there is a need to stop and think about whom we are hurting and what are we leaving behind as we populate our closets with endless collections. For the longest time, however, there was no alternative way to design the footwear closet. Bridging this gap is a Mumbai-based footwear brand, Paio, that not only specialises in plant-based leather but has also been innovating new technologies. The PETA-certified vegan brand has a variety of plant-based alternatives like hemp, jute and faux silks.
Right at the centre of this vegan cornucopia is their mushroom leather-based handcrafted products which are the perfect choice for conscious customers who want to make sustainable and cruelty-free choices. What makes them even more special is how they support the traditional karigar community and keep their craft alive and thriving.
Shop their cruelty-free collection here.
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