Due to its versatility, leather has been a material of choice for humans since time immemorial. The highly durable, flexible and wrinkle-resistant qualities of this fabric make it perfect for a wide variety of applications, including clothing, footwear, upholstery, electronics, and even musical instruments. However, the production of leather involves animal cruelty and in recent times, several animal rights activists have started campaigning against the leather industry, highlighting the suffering animals go through in the process. Hides used in making leather usually come from cattle, but several leading brands also use exotic hides derived from animals such as crocodiles, alligators, ostriches, and snakes, which are bred in farms in horrible conditions.
Besides animal cruelty, leather industry also has major environmental impact. Tanning, a key process in leather making, is a highly polluting one, especially in countries like India – the world’s third-largest producer and exporter of leather. Leather tanneries dispose off chemicals such as chromium into nearby rivers and water streams, thereby polluting them heavily and causing diseases amongst humans and animals who depend on such water for drinking and other purposes. This too has led to outcry by environmental groups. In Kanpur, the city with more than 10,000 tanneries, extremely high levels of effluent disposal had led to shutting down of several tanneries by the government.
Gladly, today we have many different alternatives for leather, most of which are cheaper and even more durable than animal leather. Such leather options are growing in popularity as people are becoming aware of the cruel practices in leather industry, as well as its ecological impact. Over recent times, we have seen global luxury brands and clothing retail chains switching to plant-based leather due to a shift in customer demand.
For vegans, plant-based leather or vegan leather is a preferred substitute as it is an ethical and cruelty-free alternative to traditional leather. It is made of materials such as cork, pineapple leaves, floral waste, mushrooms, cactus, amongst others. Products made from these materials are pocket-friendly and resemble the aesthetic texture of animal leather. Luckily, we have several Indian brands offering accessories made of such leather alternatives.
In this article, we have listed 7 go-to vegan leather brands for conscious consumers:
Launched in 2017 by Zuzana and Suseelan, Malai is a Kerala based brand promoting vegan leather in mainstream fashion. This PETA approved brand skillfully turns coconut waste into a bio composite material. It is 100% biodegradable, breathable, and exudes the texture of leather. It hosts a lovely collection of vegan leather bags, wallets, furniture, bedsheets, footwear, and much more for an aesthetic appeal. Using avant-garde techniques, Malai is championing to bring vegan leather in vogue.
Combining Art+Nature, Arture was established in 2015 by Shivani. This Indian vegan brand is committed to producing all its products from green and clean materials. Advocating cruelty-free products, it substitutes conventional leather for 100% natural cork fabrics. It makes their lovely collection of products highly durable, anti-fungal, lightweight, and water-resistant. Arture also works with the NGO named ResQ, donating their proceedings to help injured animals. Shop for grab-worthy vegan wallets, travel accessories, handbags from Arture to support your vegan lifestyle.
A Big Indian Story
With the objective of promoting a sustainable and a vegan lifestyle, A Big Indian Story is all about ethical fashion. This brand works with traditional Indian craftspersons and artists to introduce contemporary designs into the market. They visualise to reflect the unique heritage of India. They use natural fabrics, cruelty-free material, and vegetable dyes for all their items. Beautiful bags, art, jewellery, diaries, and other accessories make them one of the top vegan leather brands of India.
Founder and director of Broke Mate Rumika Sharma believes that one can remain fashion-forward without spending a bomb. Her brand promotes animal welfare by offering stylish and highly durable vegan leather products. Broke Mate sells a wide range of vegan leather items like handbags, laptop bags, slings, and satchels. Cruelty-free, made in India, and PETA certification makes this label the most sought-after vegan brands to fuse fashion and fun.
This Delhi-based vegan label has developed its leather alternative from pineapple leaf fibre (Pinatex) and an Italian plastic leather-lookalike fabric called Pleather. Combining fashion with durability, its product line includes stunning vintage cabin bags, wallets, and backpacks in vibrant colours. Having a low environmental impact, Aulive’s Pina collection is completely compostable, while its other range is recyclable. Sustainable and gorgeous, Aulive is one of the brands to check out for sure!
Are you looking to stand out from the crowd with your one-of-a-kind and socially conscious footwear? Then, PAIO is the ultimate vegan leather footwear brand for you. This Mumbai-based brand by Shweta Nimkar, offers women’s footwear for every occasion. Explore its beautiful collection of shoes made from vegan materials like mushrooms and plant leather. From attractive juttis and boots, to sliders and heels, you can even get your perfect design customised!
Founded in 2016 by Mumbai-based Disha Singh, this brand has been flourishing since its launch. By fusing Indian prints with modern functionality, Zouk has created a niche for itself in the Indian accessories market. Offering trendy laptop bags, slings, messenger bags, backpacks and more, Zouk’s products are proudly Indian and celebrate the rich and diverse culture of India.
Summing it up
According to a survey, the global vegan leather market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 49% in the 2019-2025 period. Vegan fashion is revolutionising the world as customers are ditching animal products to adopt an eco-friendly and a humane lifestyle. Designers and brands from all over India are offering better vegan products to help customers shop responsibly. At such a juncture, these homegrown labels are sure to become the flagbearers of guilt-free fashion.