5 Plant-Based Leather Brands Leading the Sustainable Fashion Revolution 

What if your stylish leather jacket could save the planet without harming a single animal—would you make the switch?

The fashion industry is infamous for its environmental footprint and ethical issues. As awareness of the industry’s dirty laundry grows, consumers now want their wardrobe choices to reflect their ethical and environmental standards. This has given rise to the popularity of sustainable fashion, where consumers can find a cool mix of styles that are kind to the planet.

One of the most exciting trends in green fashion is plant-based leather. This alternative to traditional leather takes animal cruelty out of the equation and lets fashion enthusiasts rock the classic leather look without guilt. It’s no surprise that the market for vegan leather is booming—it’s projected to reach US$74.5 billion by 2030, expanding at an annual growth rate of 9.5%, according to Vantage Market Research. Let’s dive into five trailblazing vegan leather startups from around the globe, each pioneering fashion that’s not only stunning but also cruelty-free.

Five vegan leather brands to watch in 2024 

  1. Banofi Leather (India)

Image from Banofi Leather’s website 

Imagine turning banana crop waste into high-quality vegan leather. That’s exactly what Banofi Leather has achieved. Jinali Mody, the brain behind this innovative startup, was motivated by the impacts of synthetic and animal-based leathers. Established in 2022, Banofi Leather crafts high-quality, plant-based leather from banana crop waste. This product, dubbed Ban-o-Fi (Banana Fibre Leather), mimics the texture, smell and look of real leather and consists of 50% banana stem waste, 30% natural additives and 20% recycled polymers, drastically lowering environmental impact compared to animal leather and plastic-based alternatives.

As the largest banana producer globally, India generates substantial agricultural waste. Each banana plant bears fruit only once; therefore, farmers need to remove the stem post-harvest to replant it, leaving behind immense quantities of waste—about 120 million tons annually. Mody, a former Yale student, founded Banofi with a US$25,000 grant from the “Sustainable Venture Prize” at Startup Yale, aiming to address this issue. 

The startup not only contributes to environmental protection but also enhances the livelihood of local farmers by purchasing banana waste at fair prices. This approach helps reduce harmful crop-burning practices and decreases waterlogging, which in turn minimizes the breeding grounds for mosquitoes and scorpions.

  1. Ananas Anam (London)

Image from Ananas Aman’s website 

Dr. Carmen Hijosa, the founder of Ananas Anam, has embraced the principles of the circular economy and cradle-to-cradle values to create Piñatex and Piñayarn, materials made from pineapple leaf waste as an alternative to animal and synthetic leather. Some of the prominent brands that have partnered with Ananas Anam include Hugo Boss, H&M and Bohema Clothing.

Image from Ananas Aman’s website 

During pineapple harvests in the Philippines, leaves are often discarded and burned, contributing to CO2 emissions. Piñatex production leaves a minimal environmental footprint, requiring no water, producing minimal waste and avoiding harmful chemicals.

The production of Piñatex significantly reduces CO2 emissions—each linear meter of the material prevents roughly 12 kg of CO2 from being released. The remaining biomass from the fiber extraction can be recycled back into the fields as organic fertilizer or used as biofuel, supporting a fully sustainable production cycle. Through turning agricultural waste into valuable natural textiles, Ananas Anam also fosters job creation in rural areas and provides pineapple farmers with a diversified income source.

  1. Mylo Unleather (California)

Image from Mylo Unleather’s website

California-based Mylo Unleather is at the forefront of sustainable fashion with its offerings made from mycelium—the root-like structures of fungi. Recognizing the environmental toll of traditional leather and pleather (faux leather), Mylo offers a compelling alternative derived from mycelium, cultivated with significantly fewer resources than those required for animal leather. After extensive development—over 5,000 iterations—Mylo has successfully eliminated all animal-derived components and more than half of the synthetic materials found in artificial leathers.

Mylo’s innovative blend predominantly consists of mycelium, complemented by lyocell and a water-based polyurethane finish to improve the material’s strength and durability. This meticulously developed composition adheres to rigorous Green Chemistry principles, ensuring minimal environmental impact.

  1. Malai Eco (Southern India)

Image from Malai Biomaterials Facebook page

From the heart of Southern India, Malai Eco introduces an eco-friendly material crafted from bacterial cellulose that grows on coconut water. Founders CS Susmith and Zuzana Gombosova developed this flexible, durable, water-resistant and allergen-free material, which resembles the characteristics of both leather and paper. They work directly with coconut producers to repurpose the waste coconut water, which would otherwise pollute local water systems and acidify the soil.

During a two-week fermentation process, the bacteria naturally transform the nutrient-rich coconut water into Malai, a robust base material. This is then enhanced with natural fibers and resins to increase its usability. The end product is a flexible and durable material that can be molded into intricate three-dimensional shapes or flat sheets, perfect for crafting a variety of sustainable fashion products.

  1. Desserto (Mexico)

Image from Desserto’s Facebook page

Desserto is revolutionizing the industry by turning the Nopal cactus into a high-quality vegan leather, known for its variety of colors and textures. Founders Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez, from Mexico, pioneered this eco-friendly material, which is partially biodegradable and free from harmful chemicals, phthalates and PVC. The innovative startup has garnered attention from major fashion icons, collaborating with renowned brands like H&M, Adidas, Karl Lagerfeld and Givenchy.

Image from Desserto’s website

In addition to serving the fashion and luxury packaging sectors, Desserto has also penetrated the automotive industry with Deserttex, a cactus-based material that meets the high-quality demands of luxury automotive brands. Esteemed brands such as BMW and Mercedes Benz have partnered with Desserto to incorporate this sustainable material into their designs.

Furthermore, the startup’s recent initiative, the “Desserto Agave” project, focuses on utilizing waste from the tequila industry (one of the biggest in Mexico), transforming it into a soft, aromatic material that complements its existing product line. 

Concluding thoughts 

Choosing vegan leather products over traditional ones is a powerful stride towards sustainability.  While traditional leather contributes to water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation, these innovative vegan alternatives utilize agricultural by-products, reducing waste and environmental harm. They not only match the look and feel of traditional leather but also adhere to higher moral and environmental standards. So, when you get such good deals in one go, why not opt for it? 

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