Our founder Giovanna Sessi Knott talks vegan leather on the Transformative or Traditional show hosted by Emmy Awards Winning Journalist Tamara Laine. The show debunks current news headlines, events, or policies. In the interview, Tamara asks about her frustration to find the perfect bag solution, and how our signature three-piece set, which includes a reversible tote crossbody and the clutch bag came to fruition. Many topics were discussed such as 3D printing, Vegan Leather made from mushrooms, PU leather, and IBM technology aimed at supply chain transparency.
You can watch the full interview here:
If you want to get a snapshot of the interview and key highlights we’ve broken it down for you below.
Is Vegan Mushroom Leather Transformative or traditional?
Tamara asked Giovanna if mushroom leather could be the next sustainable fashion material, and if this so-called ‘new luxury fabric’ that is plant-based carbon neutral can be just as durable and chic as regular leather? Could a vegan leather made of mushrooms help reshape the fashion industry?
“In order for it to be truly transformative, this mushroom leather - It needs to be accessible, when accessible, at a price that everybody can afford. - - It is very expensive at the moment to source mushroom leather, I tried and I failed. I'm not Stella McCartney, and I am not Adidas, I'm just a small, sustainable brand that is trying to transform the world, but I don't have access. --
Any leathers that are vegan, and that are out in the market at the moment that we call it, either vegetable leathers or fruit leathers are called by the name of one of their components. So when we talk about apple leather, we think it's apples. -- There is a minority of this element in it, but it's a bit of a marketing name to it, because they all need PU, right, to back it and to make it solid and to make it durable.
So this is not transformative”
She also highlighted that whilst mushroom leather has its many benefits such as being organic, vegan, and biodegradable, we need to ask what percentage of that is actually PU leather? The percentage of the materials they are buying into may not actually be transformative.
What we need to examine is the longevity aspect of all new bio and food-based materials, nobody wants a handbag they hope to pass on to grandchildren to decompose do they?
Tamara Agreed that something can only really be described as transformative if it's accessible. So until mushroom leather is widely available at a price point that all brands can afford, it really cannot transform the fashion industry as we know it.
Is Vegan Leather Made of PU sustainable?
Our three-piece signature set is made with high-quality recycled vegan leather made from PU with a pebbled effect.
Giovanna believes there is nothing wrong with using recycled PU leather. In her interview with Tamara, she says she decided to use recycled vegan PU leather, because of the issues linked to cattle farming in fashion that leads to deforestation. The use of leather is a huge contributor to climate change - that is one of the main issues a fashion brand has when it comes to sustainability when they rely on the leather industry.
At the time of design and manufacturing the set, the range of cruelty-free leather alternatives was still limited. Since deforestation is linked to cattle farming, and cruelty to animals - using real leather was never going to be an option for The Morphbag. Giovanna researched many different materials - and any cruelty-free alternative had to be durable as she wanted to produce handbags made to last. A key consideration was that these bags have been designed to be used day in and day out.
After stress testing PU leather, it was clear it could offer the same ‘breaking in’ and long-term use as leather. Longevity was to be a key consideration alongside the ethical and environmental impact of the materials chosen.
At the time of producing a new handbag range, as a small sustainable handbag brand, sourcing new materials there were many factors to consider such as:
- Minimum Order Requirement
- Factory Standards
As well as clear evidence that the material would indeed last as long as traditional leather. Longevity and quality are also hallmarks of sustainability so whilst PU compared to some newer materials like mushroom, apple or pineapple leaf leather, may sound more eco-friendly, the question around longevity remains…these materials have not been on the market long enough to offer a like for like comparison.
Sustainability in fashion
Tamara spoke about a new platform based on IBM technology aimed at supply chain transparency. The pilot test included some big names such as H&M. She asked Giovanna if this could be a transformative way to enforce company accountability, or simply another unread metric source in the quest for sustainability?
Giovanna stated that what we need is something that is standardised that measures and compares across the global fashion industry. This is what we would really need to make it truly transformative.
What would be great is if all fashion products had labels on them, like the traffic light systems you get on some packaging at grocery stores. If we showed consumers exactly what goes into each product they could make more informed decisions - and actually buy things aligned with their values. Until that exists it does make it hard for consumers to know what is sustainable, so much greenwashing these days!
We are constantly looking for ways in which our personal choices can contribute to a more sustainable future. You can read more about The Morphbags sustainability mission here.
The New Vegan & Sustainable Handbag Collection…
Before Tamara wrapped up the interview with Giovanna she asked what exciting things are happening at The Morphbag HQ right now…
We wanted to announce that we will be launching a new sustainable vegan handbag line, the creative process is underway and we want to get our Morphbag family involved in the process. If you’d like to participate in our research and help us shape the next collection, please sign up to our Newsletter.
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We will be offering those on our mailing list early access to pre-order the net collection at a special pre-order price.
Let us know in the comments what your thoughts are on the interview and if you’re a fan of vegan leather!
I really enjoyed this interview Giovanna – well done!