Five PETA-approved designers tell us what it takes to beat leather
Made cool in the 1950s by the likes of Marlon Brando and James Dean, the leather jacket has since been an essential for the male wardrobe. Six-inch leather finish Jimmy Choos, Tom Ford pumps and top-handle Louis Vuitton bags soon turned into must-haves for the women of fashion, with leather making a wearable statement by the ’90s, transcending gender, national borders and even spanning generations. Meanwhile, luxury designers like Stella McCartney have been championing the cause of animal-free fashion, looking at alternatives like muskin (mushroom leather) and pinatex (pineapple leather). Though the case against leather maybe strong, being caught in a rexine substitute would be a faux-pas even for the not-too-fashion conscious. We catch up with five designers who are pioneering vegan sensibilities in leather in our part of the world.
Graphic designer-turned-fashion designer Shilpa Shanker Narain is one of the few non-vegans championing the cause of a leather-free industry. The Delhi-based designer, whose brand Terracorrda deals exclusively with handbags and luggage, is a fairly new entrant into the fashion game, following its launch in August this year. Products include a range of tote and duffle bags with Indian motifs, handcrafted onto PU leather by artisans from the capital region. Available in colours like blue, yellow and maroon, its prices range between Rs 3,500 to Rs 4,500. While orders can be placed online through the their Facebook page, Terracorrda also retails with e-marketer Can Of Juice. One can expect laptop bags, business travel bags, accessories like belts, bracelets, neckpieces and upholstered furniture from this entrepreneur in 2017. “We are in talks with manufacturers who make non-woven cloth out of recycled plastic bottles to use for our bag lining,” adds Shilpa. Details: facebook.com/terracorda
In 2015, Chennai-based duo Shivani Patel and Keshsa Vasanth launched their fashion accessory label Arture, as a part of a crowdfunding project. The brand, which retails bags and wallets made of cork, sticks to its strength—minimalist elegance. “Our products are not too flashy. We try and stick to earthy tones of black, blue, brown and maroon,” says Keshsa. Apart from the usual wallets and handbags, they offer card holders, sling bags, passport and iPad sleeves. Considering that medium-sized totes are in vogue this season, Arture houses reversible totes that come in black, maroon and other natural shades of cork. Lined with organic cotton, these bags come with a detachable pouch that can be hooked onto the bag. Rs 750 onwards. Details: myarture.com.
“He is eco-friendly as he is stylish,” that’s how Abhinandhan Jain, co-founder of Chennai-based fashion brand Monk Story describes their mascot, The Monk. In the business since June 2016, the label has managed to carve a niche online with their Facebook page touching over 11,000 likes. While being a vegan brand is an advantage, the Monk Story features products like faux leather shoes (mostly made of PU—a synthetic leather variant), printed fabric slip-ons, and a quirky range of wooden bowties and sunglasses. “We are looking at experimenting with pineapple leather, but as of now, we are sticking to velvets, PU, jute and will soon diversify into canvas,” he says. With goods that are handmade and a price range that begins at Rs 500, this brand seems to be doing all the right things. “Actor Jiiva, and cricketer Stuart Binny have picked shoes from our store,” shares the 24-year-old. With a 1,500 sq ft office-and-showroom in Chennai and another store in Hyderabad, Abhinandhan and partner Nilesh Jain are looking to set up stores across the country in 2017. Details: monkstory.com
It doesn’t get more straightforward than this with Kolkata-based label Vegshoes. Design wasn’t exactly on former investment banker Manish Pareek’s mind until a few years ago, when he and his 24-year-old cousin Mayank decided to make shoes out of recycled plastic bottles, albeit with the look and feel of leather. Drawn to bio-mimickery, Manish researched alternatives to leather before zeroing in on a microfibre polymer found in PET bottles. “Vegshoes is the first-of-its-kind initiative from India,” says the 28-year old. Exclusively dealing in men’s shoes, the brand boasts of a large clientele in the vegan community, featuring products like formal shoes, drivers and slip-on shoes in colours like tan, maroon, and black among others. Rs 1,800 onwards. Details: vegshoes.in
Pankaj Khabiya’s Ethik has accessorising for men all sorted out. From bags to wallets, shoes, belts and card-holders, this Bengaluru-based label deals with a polymer-based fibre that the 29-year-old calls Neather. “It took two-and-a-half years of R &D and a lot of travel before we could decide upon a suitable material for our products. Organic fibres like muskin were still in the nascent stage of prototyping when we started out,” he says. Mimicking leather in more ways than one, Pankaj says that Neather is breathable and water-proof. With a store-front in Church Street, Bengaluru, Ethik sells almost 50 pairs of shoes a month, and is garnering a customer base both online and offline. While the belts are quite popular, the wallets that come in various shades of blues, brown and white are Pankaj’s favourites. Rs 650 onwards. Details: ethik.in