Apple leather (sometimes called AppleSkin) is a new, bio-based vegan fabric made from, you guessed it… apples! Apple leather is a fantastic alternative to traditional leather (which we know isn’t always the most ethical to produce) because it’s taking the “leftovers” from the apple juice and compote industry and turning it into something new.
I am continuously amazed by the new, innovative eco-friendly fabrics taking over the sustainable fashion industry. From Lyocell to Cupro, to Bamboo, many of these fabrics not only have a significantly lower carbon footprint, but they are oftentimes vegan, extremely durable, and reuse materials from the production of another product that would have otherwise gone to waste. It’s for these very reasons I am so fascinated by apple leather!
What is Apple Leather?
Apple leather came on to the scene in 2008 when the Italian company Frumat realized that the apple juice industry produced a significant amount of waste that was being sent to landfill.
Farmers in the Tyrol region of northern Italy have been growing apples to make jams, ciders and juices for generations. To make the apple juice, the pulp, seeds, stalks, and skins are often thrown away and rendered useless.
In some cases, farmers would also be forced to discard parts of their harvest because it wasn’t up to the cosmetic standard required to be sold in supermarkets.
Upon this discovery, Frumat began to build partnerships with local companies in northern Italy to start recovering the organic material left behind during the pressing process.
Today, Frumat recovers approximately 30 tons of apple waste a month from local companies to make a variety of apple based products, with AppleSkin being one of their more famous innovations.
Apple leather isn't the first faux vegan leather to gain popularity in recent years. For example, Piñatex is vegan leather made from the fiber of pineapple leaves. You can also make vegan leather from the paddles (leaves) of cactus plants and cork. These all look and feel just like traditional leather!
How is Apple Leather Made?
To make apple leather, the peels and leftovers are dried and ground to a fine powder, which is then (usually) mixed with other bio-based contents and water-based polyurethane to provide extra durability and essentially hold the powder together. The mixture is then laid flat to dry and the final result is a thick, semi-synthetic leather sheet which can be turned into accessories, shoes, luggage, furnishing, and upholstery.
Is Apple Leather Eco-Friendly?
While apple leather contains a minimum of 50% apple fiber, it is a mixed material and technically wouldn’t be “natural” (instead it's considered a semi-synthetic material). However, there are many aspects of apple leather that make it a much more eco-friendly option when you look at the alternatives.
Take PU Synthetic Leather as an example. Although polyurethane synthetic leather is vegan, it's derived fully from fossil fuels and requires lots of nasty chemicals to produce. When you think about it, synthetic leather is not much better than nylon or any other material that is made from synthetic polymers.
So, what makes apple leather so great?
The water-saving aspects of apple leather production.
Leather that comes from cows will undergo various treatments during the production process which require lots of water including cleaning, tanning, and dyeing. To make things worse, the dyes used during the last stage can make their way into local waterways if not treated or properly disposed of.
If you are interested, I would definitely recommend reading more about sustainable dyes and their pros and cons.
Reduced carbon footprint compared to traditional leather.
To make traditional leather products, forests - which would normally play an important role in absorbing carbon from the atmosphere - must be clear cut in order to make room for the cattle farms and tanneries. Raising cows to slaughter also produces a hefty amount of greenhouse gas emissions such as methane, a super powerful greenhouse gas.
Apple leather on the other hand, reuses an organic material that would have been sent to landfill, thereby further reducing the emissions generated from food waste! If food waste were a country, it would be the 3rd highest emitter of greenhouse gas.Yikes…
Biodegradability and recyclability of apple leather products.
If apple leather is blended with a synthetic material during production, it is no longer a natural material and therefore is not biodegradable. On the bright side, you can recycle apple leather!
It’s also worth mentioning here that apple leather is VERY durable and hopefully won’t need to be discarded anytime soon, making it a great staple item if you are building a fall capsule wardrobe!
Cruelty free and vegan
Since apple leather doesn’t require any animal by-products to create, it is cruelty free and a vegan material. Many apple leather products have certifications to back up these claims such as AppleSkin which is PETA approved Vegan, USDA Biopreferred approved, and OEKO-TEX certified.
Pros and Cons of Apple Leather:
Where Can I Buy Apple Leather Products?
Many luxury fashion and sustainable clothing brands like Sylven New York and Samara are making apple leather products one of their key materials. In fact, many brands prefer apple leather over mushroom, cork, or even cactus since it does such a fantastic job at mimicking traditional leather.
Let’s go through some of the other best brands making sustainable apple leather products!
Dooeys is a female-owned brand that offers gorgeous slippers made from various plant-based materials (including apple leather). They use sugarcane EVA for the soles and a combination of recycled plastic bottles and post-consumer recycled polyester for the lining. Even their packaging is made from recycled materials!
Besides offering an eco-friendly product, Dooeys also offsets their carbon emissions associated with production and donates a portion of their revenue to multiple environmental organizations.
Veerah is an innovative NY-based shoe brand. Their ultra trendy shoes are made from a plethora of sustainable materials including apple leather, vegan plastic, and even algae! I don't know about you but the idea of walking around in a pair of sustainable shoes made from algae sounds very cool.
Use: VEERAHXCANDICEBATISTA for 10% off
Allégorie is another female owned brand that creates wallets, card holders, and bags. They use different plant based materials to make their leather products including apples, cactus, and mango leather. They are cruelty-free, PVC-free, and are certified by the USDA, PETA, and OKEO-TEX.
I find their work very impressive when you consider how much food waste they actually divert from landfill. For example, one of their Gala Backpacks upcycles about 550 apples, with bio content constituting approximately 80% of the bag. Wow!
I love Matt and Natt! Not only have they been making vegan handbags for years, they are a Canadian based company with so many cruelty free options to choose from.
Plus, all of the linings of their bags are made from 100% recycled plastic bottles. According to their website, about 21 plastic bottles are recycled for every bag they produce.
Good Guys Don't Wear Leather is a Parisian brand that makes apple leather footwear for both men and women. They are the trademark behind Apple Skin and have been pioneers in the apple leather industry from the start.
While apple leather is still pretty new to the fashion scene, I would also suggest keeping an eye out for it in thrift stores. Online thrift stores might also provide the option to search for specific materials or brands, in which case you can be on the lookout for apple leather!
Can Apple Leather Get Wet?
Apple leather can get wet but if this does happen,gently blot the extra moisture off the material with a clean cloth and let it air dry naturally indoors (not in the sun).
How Do You Care For Apple Leather?
Apple leather is fairly easy to care for. Like traditional leather, I would avoid putting it in direct contact with heat to avoid shrinkage otherwise the material might lose its shape. To clean your apple leather, simply use a dry cloth to remove any dirt or dust. You can also apply a leather conditioner to protect the material and help your item last even longer.
If you ask me, Apple leather is really revolutionizing the fashion industry. Compared to traditional or fully synthetic leather, it uses less water, produces less carbon emissions, is cruelty free, and recyclable. Plus, caring for apple leather is fairly similar to caring for any traditional leather item (and it's just as durable).
At the end of the day, buying clothes and accessories (like those made from apple leather) that are durable, long lasting, and can be recycled are key principles of the slow fashion movement and I highly recommend you support slow fashion brands like the ones I mentioned today when you are given the choice.
Would you buy apple leather? Leave a comment below! 🙂