Natural leather alternatives have been in development for time immemorial. Presstoff, for example, was one of the earliest, invented in 19th century Germany. It is made out of layered paper pulp that is specially treated.
Rexine, from the UK, is another early example that was fit for use as a bookbinding material as well as upholstery covering. This leathercloth fabric was made of textile cloth surfaced with a mixture of nitrocellulose, camphor oil, alcohol, and pigment, embossed to look like leather.
Eco-leather alternatives: pineapples, cacti, and mushrooms, oh my!
With concerns about the climate crisis and our consumption’s impact on the earth at an all-time high, fashion houses are among those in the queue trying to boost a more ‘ecofriendly’ image of their brand. H&M recently announced the use of cactus leather in its new collection. Cactus and pineapple leather are also emerging in the marketplace.
Hermès has announced its debut into vegan leather materials with the forthcoming release of a new version of its famous “Victoria” bag using a natural leather alternative grown from mycelium.
Developing this material to fulfill the luxury standard of Hermès took the brand three years in a co-development with MycoWorks, a biomaterials startup company based in the USA.
“Sylvania represents how nature and biotechnology can work in concert to create a material with the highest standards of quality…it is the result of a shared vision for growing the future of materials and a quest to unlock new design possibilities.” stated MycoWorks CEO Matt Scullin.
The new Victoria bag featuring the mushroom leather called ‘Sylvania’ will hit storefronts in late 2021.
From a bookbinding standpoint, how these leather alternatives stand up to time, conservation methods, and practical wear and tear remains to be seen.
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