Bioleather is an Indian alt leather producer that has developed tomato composite, a fully biodegradable material made by extracting cellulose fibers from tomato plant waste.
Described as an “exotic material with unique texture, color, and characteristics”, the leather alternative is made from two separate layers. This eliminates the need for a layer of polyurethane, which is used in most plant-based alt leathers to improve durability.
The natural characteristics of the tomato composite are said to protect it from deformation, and it is also described as lightweight, easy to clean, and resistant to water and abrasions.
In 2021, the material won Best Innovation in Textile at the PETA Vegan Fashion Awards. Bioleather now offers a selection of shoes and bags made from the tomato leather, and it can also be customized for companies who want to use the material in their own products.
Additionally, Bioleather produces another type of biodegradable vegan leather, derived from microbes. The material is carbon neutral and made with all-natural dyes. An exotic version mimicking the texture of alligator skin is also available, said to be ideal for use in luxury products.
Bananas, coffee, flowers, tomatoes as leather
Numerous companies are now working to create sustainable alt leather from a range of plant-based materials that would otherwise be wasted. In India, Atma Leather turns banana waste into a leather alternative that is used by fashion brands such as Rashki, while Fleather upcycles discarded temple flowers into animal-free leather.
Further afield, the UAE’s Leukeather has created an alternative to exotic leather using river tamarind pods, while Zèta has partnered with Nespresso to create leather made from coffee grounds.
“We can no longer only use sustainable materials or natural resources. We have an abundance of waste we can use. The idea was to give another life to waste and create a new product combining innovation, aestheticism, and durability,” said Zèta CEO Laure Babin.