This New Vegan Leather Alternative Is Made of Palm Leaves

Palm leather rugs are vegan alternative to cow hide

Dec 25, 2018

(Tjeerd Veenhoven)

Palm leather is the newest choice in textiles available to replace leather made from animals. The vegan and earth-friendly material is made of palm leaves, which when woven together looks similar to a leather rug.

Dutch designer Tjeerd Veenhoven started experimenting with the leather substitute made from palm leaves eight years ago when he began looking at natural fibers made from plants to replace human-made and animal materials.

Veenhoven acquired the Arecae Betel Nut palm leaves from India, and in the beginning, the palm leaves did not appear to be promising. "In my material research I found out that the material was super brittle and not very useful, but if you soften it with a special material of glycerin and water and some other materials you can make it nice and soft," he told Deezen.

According to Studio Veenhoven, the mixture has no harmful effects on people, animals, or nature and all ingredients are graded for human consumption.

It took a while to develop and refine a usable "leather" by testing it in a variety of products. What worked the best was to construct rugs by laying thin strips of the palm leather and attaching it to a woven base. Any inconsistencies of the folds are left so that every rug is one of a kind.

While the first rugs were made in the Netherlands, production has now moved to a factory in the Dominican Republic that is familiar with green initiatives. From there, the products are shipped directly to customers all over the world.

Initially, the interest in the palm leather was in finding an alternative to human-made materials. "It first was seen much more as a potential replacement of leather-like materials, or neoprenes or plastics – that was the first hook for people," Veenhoven told Deezen. Later the focus shifted to making a vegan product.

With the growing interest in eating a vegan diet and using vegan materials, palm leather as an animal alternative is highly marketable. This is not Veenhoven’s first alternative sustainable fiber endeavor. He has been working with a variety of other plant-based materials including algae fabrics in his Groningen studio in Northern Holland.

The studio is hoping to sell the strong and durable palm leather as a material to use in other products and said that there is an interest from automotive companies that are looking for a vegan alternative to leather car interiors.

There are other eco-friendly leather alternatives already on the market. One innovative material manufactured by Ananas Anam is Piñatex that is made from pineapple leaf fibers. Another organic textile is MuSkin that is made from mushrooms. The leaves from the Indian Sal tree is also being used to make leather-like products.

Sustainable natural products are the new growing trend in textile production. It has to be, the pollution and environmental damage caused by the textile industry to the earth is severe. Innovators like Veenhoven are leading the way to a cleaner, more sustainable and ethical industry.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.

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