The history of eco-leather

If we look back in time, animal skins were probably one of the first materials humans used to make shoes and clothing. And, despite the passage of thousands of years, genuine leather remains popular. It is difficult to find a substitute for this quality material with unrivaled performance. Although this need is long overdue for many reasons. Genuine leather is a material that not everyone can afford. Over time, the increased demand for this material led to the rapid growth of the livestock and leather industries. This in turn leads to the release and increase of greenhouse gas emissions. Facts have proven that the livestock industry accounts for 18% of the total amount of harmful substances emitted into the atmosphere.

Modern leather tanning technology is a complex and lengthy process involving approximately 50 raw material processing stages. In this case, special equipment, chemical solutions, and factory dyes are used, which pollutes the atmosphere, environment, and harms the health of production personnel.
More and more people are considering natural leather from an ethical perspective, arguing that it is unethical to kill animals for a new piece of clothing or a pair of shoes.

Taken together, all this stimulates scientists to search for and innovate the development of cheaper natural leather analogues – leather substitutes.

The first leather substitutes, such as the well-known artificial leather, could not replace natural leather in terms of quality and performance. And they are inferior to it in every aspect, forming a negative attitude towards artificial cheap analogues. It was not until 1963 that American scientists successfully invented a material with unique properties-ecological leather made of synthetic fibers.

What is eco-leather made of?

The raw material from which the new artificial fabric is obtained is a “breathable” microporous polyurethane film applied to a woven base made of polyester or cotton. The top is painted one color or another. The material can consist of 3/4 natural compressed waste – leather shavings, cotton or artificial cellulose fibers. Others are made from a health-safe synthetic polymer – polypropylene. All its necessary properties are developed during the synthesis process, so that no harmful plasticizer additives are used in the production of ecological leather. Therefore, the prefix “eco” is used in the material name.

The performance of eco-leather depends on the thickness of the polyurethane film. The thicker it is, the better these properties are. But this increases the stiffness of the material. Because the fabric and polypropylene layers are embossed during production, the canvas looks almost identical to real leather. It’s not always possible to determine what type of material it is by looking at the texture and pattern. But modern eco-leather can be obtained not only from petroleum products. There are some examples of innovative materials made from very unusual raw materials. This is certainly not mass production. But who knows… maybe the future belongs to them.

In the process of removing the top layer, long, thin cellulose fibers are extracted from the plant leaves. They are then dried in the sun, cleaned, and used to create the base for Pinatex fabrics – non-woven mesh.

After being treated with a protective layer, canvas becomes very similar to regular leather. And it’s not just looks. The material is moisture-resistant, soft, stretchy, breathable and easy to care for. Instead of being sold by the block, they are sold by the roll.

Clothes, shoes, home textiles and furniture are made from it.