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What is Vegan Leather? Is it just Plastic?

'Vegan leather' is a material that does not come from animal origin.   A note too that just because something is labeled vegan does not necessarily mean it is also sustainable, more on this later.

Data from the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI), a cradle-to-gate material scoring tool by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), shows that the materials with the overall highest environmental impact are leather and natural fibers (silk, cotton, wool). These materials show the highest negative impacts across all dimensions.   The production of fur, leather, wool and silk kills animals. None of these materials are necessary or can be ethically produced because they require the exploitation of animals who are, by definition, property. The production of these materials devastates the environment not only through the rearing of livestock but the plethora of chemicals necessary to transform flesh into wearable material. 

There are many different vegan materials out there and their sustainability credentials can differ markedly.  Cheaply priced vegan products or companies that do not detail their materials are likely to be using PU or PVC which are damaging to the environment.  It is important to review which vegan materials a company is using to substantiate their eco-credentials.

Great news!  There are now many more innovative, technologically advanced materials to bring comfort and durability.   A selection of them are listed below:

The fibres from the pineapple leaf are coated with a weather based PU resin and is ~95% biodegradable in controlled conditions.

 Bio-based and produced from the root-like vegetation part of fungi. It is not widely commercially available as yet.

Harvested from the bark without the tree being cut down.  It can be utilised in several ways and is biodegradable.

Made from recycled plastic bottles and bio-polyoils originating from no food and GMO free corn crops.  Cereals combined with textile supports of natural origin or from recycled material. FSC certified viscose or post-consumer recycled polyester, GRS certified .

Fruit leathers
By-products of the grape, mango and apple industries, they are dried and crushed into a powder that is combined with non-toxic chemicals and oils or polyurethane.

Cactus leather
Dried cactus powder is backed on a woven material and coated with polyurethane.

Completely plastic free and certified 100% bio-content by the USDA bio-preferred program.

Made from urban plant, agricultural and forestry waste, it is still in the R&D phase.

Recycled PU leather
Made from recycled sources which assists in reducing waste and use of raw materials.

Tree Bark
Made from the bark of the East African fig tree

At BB it is not just about the upper of the shoe but each of the 20 components that can make up a shoe which we focus on being as sustainable as possible.  We use the most innovative fabrics and components suitable for our footwear and processes to reduce our carbon footprint.  Our materials are derived from biomass as well as natural and recycled materials.  From water-based and animal free glue, to recycled PET sequins, plant-based ultra-suede, cork, organic cotton, and biodegradable glitter, we make it our mission to work with the best materials, and we’re always looking for ways to improve.

Whilst not perfect, vegan leather has a far lesser negative environmental impact than leather and there are continual advancements being made which is very exciting. Demand drives innovation and investment so let’s support “vegan leather” products and drive the fashion industry towards a more sustainable future.

Why does sustainable fashion have a higher price tag

👚 Is sustainable fashion expensive or has fashion been sold at too low a price for too long?
👠What has gone into and what sacrifices have been made to be able to sell a new pair of shoes for £9.99?
💪 Is it you, the consumer, who has the power to bring a change for the better for fashion?

What is sustainable fashion?  
At B_Boheme we like to call it POSITIVE FASHION.
It is an issue which is vast and in its simplest form it is the prioritisation of the environment, workers and for BB of course animals too in the design and manufacture of products.

At BB we are purpose-led and aim to design out waste and pollution.  We want to make a positive impact and inspire others to consider a more compassionate and conscious fashion choice.  Sustainable fashion does not mean you need to always buy new.  Our blog below, 7 tips to build a sustainable wardrobe covers buying vintage, repairing your clothes and more.

Mass produced fast fashion vs pre-order slow fashion
The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries with too much waste with frightening levels of overproduction. Every second, the equivalent of a rubbish truck load of clothes is burnt or buried in landfill.  Covid-19’s impact on fashion is profound with hundreds of millions to billions of pounds of left-over inventory.  

At B_Boheme we want to change that.  We only make shoes that we know our customers want.  It cuts overstock, cost and waste.  Manufacturing lower volumes results in a higher cost price but the pre-order model is much better for the planet.  At BB we call it slow fashion.

Ethically sourced animal-free innovative materials
Contrary to popular belief, leather is not a by-product but rather a co-product of the leather industry.  Selling leather supports slaughter industries, and without the sale of it, these industries would struggle financially.  In addition, 90% of leather around the world is tanned with chemicals like chromium, as well as formaldehyde and arsenic rendering it inorganic.  These chemicals are toxic to both the workers and environment.

Did you know a shoe is made up of many different components?
It takes BB much time to research to find sustainable solutions for each.   We source  plant based, organic, upcycled and natural sustainable materials to create products with the lowest possible footprint.  Premium materials do also come with a higher price tag.  We make it our mission to work with the best materials suitable for footwear, and we’re always looking for ways to improve.
Ethical Manufacturing
According to the Clean Clothes Campaign, up to 93 per cent of brands don’t pay a living wage to its suppliers.  At the start of the pandemic, brands cancelled $bn of orders which left workers in a desperate situation and not all brands have committed to pay for their cancelled orders

At BB ethical production and transparency is key.  We choose to produce close to home in Portugal.  Alicia, founder of B_Boheme handpicks and personally visits each partner factory to ensure safe working conditions and a fair wage to the artisans producing our shoes.

Positive fashion does come with a high price tag as conscious brands want to ensure their products are being produced as sustainably and ethically as possible.  The hope is that with a shift to more eco-consciousness and the demand for sustainable options growing, sustainable fashion will become mainstream and with a lower price tag.

👗We say boycott fast fashion brands. Ask them why they are not doing better.

🌎Support sustainable fashion brands - Buy less, buy better -  Invest in a quality product which you can wear for years to come.  

🌈 Don’t forget our blog below - “7 tips to build a sustainable wardrobe” too.

So come on, join us in making positive fashion choices for a more compassionate, fairer and greener fashion future.


Sustainable Fashion = Spending Lots of Money?

We were considering how to articulate this and voila thank you Fashion Revolution Canada for this fab graphic.  

It is often thought that is expensive to build a sustainable fashion wardrobe but that could not be farther from the truth.  Below we give our handy tips on how to build your very own.

When it is time to purchase new items, it is best to support independent sustainable fashion brands such as us.

Sustainable products can have a higher price point than mass produced products and we will cover this in our next blog, do stay tuned.
Wearing the clothes you already own
First start shopping in your own wardrobe.  C’mon how many of us are guilty of stashing away clothes in the back of our wardrobes.

Buy second-hand or vintage
Your local charity shop can be a goldmine of choice, taking you through decades of style.  Checkout your local charity shop and there are a plethora of online choices too - checkout Depop or Vinted.

Buy from sustainable brands
Support your small independent sustainable brands.  Like us they have true ethics behind their businesses.
Using our businesses as a force of good, for the people and planet and at BB for animals too. You can find BB and other good brands at Good On you.

Of course you can sew a button back on, go on give it a try!  If it is a little more complicated, your local tailor or cobbler is happy to lend a helping hand.

Washing with care
Do you really need to wash your clothes as often as you do?  A simple airing overnight can do the trick and when you do wash, a 30 degree cycle is more eco-friendly.
Fun fact: Chip Bergh, CEO of Levis has not washed his pair of jeans in 10 years.

Why not give your clothes a new lease of life?  Here are top 5 tips for beginners to upcycle their clothes.
If they are really at the end of their life, you can turn them into cleaning rags.

Borrowing or clothes swapping
Get a few friends together and make a party of it!  You can be sure you won’t be seen in the same outfit on a night out ;)
There are regular clothes swapping events happening, search online for one close to you.

There you go, as easy as 1-2-3, well 7 but do give a couple a try to start.
We hope you have found these useful and we would love to hear what your sustainable fashion hacks are too.