What’s wrong with pleather? Vegan fashion textiles to heal the world

What’s on your feet? Go ahead, look down. I’ll wait while you check.

You’re probably wearing shoes… and if so, it’s worth asking what they cost. Not what you paid, but what the true cost of those shoes was to the world around us.

Unfortunately, even many so-called vegan leather alternatives may actually be damaging to the environment. That’s because they’re often made of PVC, also known as polyvinyl chloride, polyurethane, textile-polymer composite microfibers, and other less than planet-friendly chemicals.

Many vegans are committed to avoiding cruelty not just in what we eat, but in everything we consume. And that means going above and beyond, avoiding not only cruelty to animals but sources that damage the environment. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean our fashion sense has to suffer!

Tare some great pleather alternatives out there today. Here are the three I’m most excited about right now:

1. Paper!

The paper-bag look of these accessories is no coincidence given that they’re actually made out of paper fibers. But don’t worry, you won’t have to scramble inside at the first sign of rain. Our top paper picks:

Paper bag rucksack from WakeCUP is the grownup version of the lunchbag you’ve always loved, sturdy and waterproof enough to haul your laptop and more (link):

Banana-fiber paper wallets from GreenBanana.com (link) — bonus, this one’s PETA approved:

Cute and practical paper pochette in olive and other colors from Uashmama complements their full-sized totes for the perfect grab-and-go accessory — use it as a wallet, clutch, or purse. (link)

No, you don’t have to look like you’re wearing used rubber tires on your feet — or carrying them around as a handbag. Used rubber tires upcycle beautifully and combine with other textiles to offer one of the most durable and environmentally responsible choices on the market. Here are our top picks in recycled rubber:

Indosole claims they’re your next favorite flip-flop– and you’d never guess the soles are upcycled tires. All uppers are natural rubber and vegan, and the shoes are crafted in Indonesia in a sanitary, safe, adults-only workplace. (link)

Unlike some of the other alternative materials, upcycling rubber does lend you a certain utilitarian chic, but that doesn’t have to mean ugly, as UK-based Lilah Bags is proving with their reclaimed inner-tube purses, including this no-nonsense cross-body box bag (link):

One of the worst thing about used tires — that they’re everywhere — also turns out to be one of the best when it comes to upcycled goods, since you can find a massive selection of high-quality, fun upcycled tire products for sale on Etsy’s one-of-a-kind craft marketplace. Here’s one seller offering everything from bike tire belts to necklaces to totes (link):

3. Pineapple!

Piñatex is a new all-vegan fabric made out of the leaves of pineapple trees, a resource that would normally be discarded, making it uniquely delicious not only in our tummies but also for the planet. Here are some of our favorite pineapple picks:

HFS Collective sells a range of sustainable bags and accessories in planet-friendly materials. Here’s their take on the classic belt bag made with Piñatex (link):

In case you’re thinking pineapple isn’t sturdy enough for shoes, think again! No less a force than Hugo Boss has gone over to the strictly-vegan side to create its line of cool, sturdy men’s Piñatex sneakers (link):

And ladies, don’t worry — there’s plenty of pineapple for you out there, too, from boots to shoes to this fun Piñatex line from Camille in eye-popping shades like gold and this adorable candy-apple red, which is also fully PETA-approved (link):

Pineapple isn’t the only fruit being turned into an alternative leather. Apple skins, orange and banana peels, and a few others are already being used to create innovative cruelty-free and planet-friendly shoes and handbags. And look for more wonderful textile alternatives (think cork, kelp, stone, cotton, apple skins, and so many more) on the market now or in the very near future.

It’s time for all of us — whether we’re already wearing vegan footwear and accessories or not — to start asking tough questions about who or what is paying the price for our fashion choices, and then start healing the world — and heading to our favorite fashion retailers to discover some of these awesome alternatives!

Share your views with the VeganNation! If you’ve tried any of these and want to rant or rave, leave a comment. And if there’s a pleather alternative you know of that you want us to feature, leave a comment below to let us know!

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