Vegan leather – oh no its not!

The Toggler blog
Published:  04 January, 2014
The Toggler

I came across this term (which incidentally is an oxymoron: “a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction”) and was appalled at the indifference to which the term leather was used. Vegans do not eat or use animal products so how can the word leather (“a material made from the skin of an animal by tanning”) be associated with Veganism. Vegan leather is an impossibility and is an example of marketing departments or ill-educated journalists using terms incorrectly.

What was more frightening was where the link took me on the internet – following from Vegan leather to “Eco-leather Corp” a company started by Richard Wool of Delaware University. There is a recording of Dr Wool outlining the thoughts behind this company at http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/34598391/highlight/376161

The objectives stated in this presentation are laudable: to find materials, which are made from 100% renewable resources. To work to find substitutes for leather is perfectly acceptable, Greening up the fashion industry is a sound motive. The presentation also highlights that a key issue is to make the material not only functional but beautiful –this is clearly correct –leather is a beautiful material. The materials created (and they are NOT Eco leather by any interpretation of the word leather – as they are not made from animal skins) are created from soya bean and natural fibres. According to the presentation, several world recognised Brands (such as Puma) are working with him and appear comfortable with the term “eco leather” for materials made from soya beans and natural fibres.

A key driver in this project, according to Dr Richard Wool, is to avoid the pollution from the tanning process –which (according to him) “releases millions, no billions of pounds of toxic wastes annually, especially chromium VI, which is in the top ten environmental hit list”. Oh dear – not that elementary mistake from a representative of a University Materials Department!

Dr Wool – we don’t use chromium VI as a tanning agent. There is no issue with anyone looking to develop new materials – nor to make environmental claims about such materials or to make comparisons BUT they must be accurate. If claims are to be made and carry any weight –they must be based on facts (ie state the toxic wastes accurately and provide an assessment of the toxicity of the comparative material at the same time).

I have already written on this subject before, I believe leather is leather, Vegan leather and Eco leather do not exist as leather is made from animal skins – not soya beans. So I have a new name for the Eco Leather Corp – The Eco Renewable Resource Shoe Making Material Corp! Not such a nice ring to it –but accurate for a change.

The Toggler

thetoggler@internationalleathermaker.com

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