Leather of the next generation is causing disruption in the textile sector.


Leather products have long been one of the most important profit drivers for fashion and luxury firms, and it is expected that demand for leather goods all over the world, such as handbags, will continue to rise. According to data that was published by Marketwatch, the current value of growth is estimated to be 95,530 billion dollars, but it is expected to soar to 122,790 billion dollars by the end of 2026.

Planet Tracker is an organisation that aims to change the practises of financial decision-makers in order to prevent ecological collapse. According to Planet Tracker, this growing demand for leather and other materials derived from animals is compounding the sustainability crisis and has a large impact on climate change, resource use, environmental degradation, as well as public health, human rights, and animal welfare. Planet Tracker’s mission is to prevent ecological collapse by changing the practises of financial decision-makers.

Stella McCartney, based in London, made headlines this week when she introduced a vegan leather luxury handbag made from mycelium. Despite the acclaim, the fashion business continues to operate in a niche market because it does not sell significant volumes of products.

As a result of businesses like LVMH reporting record earnings for its fashion and leather goods categories, which are up 51 percent over 2019, individuals and businesses alike are exploring for environmentally friendly alternatives that are not only fashionable but also useful and affordable.

Planet Tracker has recently published research that investigates what the fashion industry would be like if leather were eliminated, and more significantly, what the effects of this on the environment would be. Pioneers working on alternative textiles may soon be able to cause a disruption in the market for leather items; nevertheless, the results will have far-reaching repercussions, not just for the environment, but also for farmers and individuals whose livelihoods depend on breeding and selling cattle.

Any change that affects the textile sector should result in the availability of cheaper and higher-quality alternatives to the materials that are now in use, according to the findings of research that was directed by Catherine Tubb Ph.D., Head of Textiles at Planet Tracker. Because those companies who are superior while also being less expensive will always emerge victorious, it is inevitable that disruption will occur from an economic point of view.

Bovine leather, which is leather obtained from cows, accounts for more than 65 percent of the market for leather worldwide, and more than half of it is utilised in the manufacturing of footwear. Dr. Tubb observes that the leather sector as a whole is extremely inefficient due to the fact that skins come in a limited quantity and have varying quality. The most significant issue is that there is a substantial amount of waste, not only as a result of the processing stage, but also simply as a result of the non-standard forms that animal skins arrive in, and the majority of it is not utilised.

Many of the previously available substitutes for leather were made from plastic, which is the source of the majority of the synthetic or faux vegan options that are currently available. New ingredient-led options, ranging from lab-grown solutions to next-generation bio-based materials, provide alternatives to materials based on fossil fuels. This exciting new phase is already disrupting the industry and delivering a superior end product, one that shares the characteristics of leather, such as suppleness, finish, durability, permeability, and warmth. In other words, it is producing a material that is similar to leather in all of these respects.

FashionUnited wanted to know how the disruption of materials will have an effect on luxury businesses and brands, as well as what the incentives would be for those businesses and brands to get involved in the pioneering phase.

As a result of luxury brands securing their leather supplies years in advance, these brands experience less problems with the availability of their supply chains and are better positioned to deal with price increases. Is it possible that this hints that these corporations will transition to leather alternatives more slowly and with less of a sense of urgency?

Luxury goods firms not only have the financial resources but also the time necessary to devote to the task of discovering superior alternative sources of leather. Therefore, despite the fact that they face less immediate challenges with their supply chain, they are able to invest in the new technology now, even though the reward may be three to five years away. These next-generation materials come with additional benefits that make them appealing to enterprises that manufacture luxury goods. One of these benefits is a reduced environmental footprint, which takes into account the affects of manufacturing as well as the end of life. It is expected that companies who specialise in luxury items will be the first to implement this technology because the products will initially have a higher cost (but costs will come down rapidly).

In the end, technology and the development of new materials will emerge victorious and cause a disruption in the market for animal hides. This will have a good influence on both deforestation and CO2 emissions. How quickly, in all likelihood, will these impacts become apparent?

The market is still in its infancy, thus expanding it will require financial resources. The disruption, on the other hand, is likely to occur far more quickly than people anticipate once both firms and consumers begin adopting the new technologies. In ten years, it is likely that these technologies will have become so much more advanced and so much more affordable that it will no longer make economic sense to use the old animal sources for leather.

There is no time to lose.

For the purposes of the materials industry, an unbelievable 4 billion land animals are killed, plucked, or shorn each and every year. If nothing is done to alter the current trajectory, the fashion sector will consume 25 percent of the world’s total carbon budget by the year 2050. It is imperative that this shift take place as quickly as possible because more than half of customers are interested in acquiring leather substitutes because of their impact on the environment.


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