The Decision To Use Real Leather Over Vegan Leather

  • by Scarlet Destiny Admin

At Scarlet Destiny, we use vegetable tanned leather for our luxury accessories, a fabric which uses natural tannins during the production process such as tree bark, olives, rhubarb, roots, and wood. We have researched many tanneries over the last couple of years and only work with ones that have taken into consideration the impact of the process on the planet (there are very few). The leather suppliers we use are working towards the LWG Gold Standard ( but it is a long and expensive process. However, they are the founding members of the Tuscany Vegetable Tanners Association who have the highest standards of ethical sourcing of hides and non-toxic use of chemicals during the tanning process of anyone in the world.  In fact, less than 10% of leather in the world is tanned using this process given its long production time, which is usually up to two months. It has been a very difficult decision to use leather given the knowledge we have of the impact of livestock on the planet. But we still consume a lot of meat in the UK with an average daily consumption of 226g per day (, and although some reports claim that it would be better to burn the skins from food processing rather than utilise them for products, we disagree.

We believe that making our products from such a durable material creates an enduring product to last for all time.  At Scarlet Destiny we were shocked to hear of the impact that using the chrome leather tanning process has on the planet, the water table and livelihoods of the people who work in the industry, as chromium salts in the processing are extremely toxic. Veg tan leather as with other leathers offer a long life span, giving character as the texture softens over time, to ensure your timeless pieces stay with you and can be passed down through generations.


Real leather derives from various animals such as cows, goats, buffalos, and pigs and has a myriad of advantages from its durability to its strength whilst also being weather-proof and physically has a look that a lot of faux leather cannot imitate. Genuine leather ranges in type, whether that be nubuck, patent, saffiano, semi-aniline or suede which all have a different finish. Prices can vary drastically as there are so many factors affecting the cost, from the animal breed, animal welfare to the dyeing process and transportation used. The material is in fact biodegradable if it is processed naturally i.e. without chromium and the list of toxic chemicals normally present in the processing of most leather, which may comfort those who are conscious of the environmental impact of their wardrobe but still want to wear leather, then veg tan is your option.

With that being said, there are alternatives to genuine leather that we have been researching for a number of years. We first heard about mushroom leather when the founder was doing a Masters degree at the London College of Fashion in Fashion & the Environment in 2011. We have since gone on to visit the Green shows in Berlin and Premier Vision in Paris and have spoken to many materialists developing alternative ‘leather like’ materials. However, many of the new alternatives such as Mylo leather that has been adopted by Stella McCartney, Hermes and Lululemon are not available to start up businesses, as the companies need the weight of large brands that can assist with the financing of the R & D to make it a viable product for the fashion market. So this area is very much in its infancy, and we can’t wait till it's been thoroughly tested and made available for us to use. Speaking on mushroom leather at London Craft Week, with Gabrielle from The Mills Fabrica in Kings Cross suggests that it might not be too long for small brands like ours to work with the fabric: “I think as soon as the product is launched they will be able to share it and spread it".
As well as this, Kerala based Malai have introduced coconut leather which uses bacterial cellulose known as coconut gel as the primary raw material. Coconut water is useless to farmers and processing units in Kerala, so Malai made use of it as it is fermented to create the gel and then enriched with hemp fibres, sisal and banana stems. Although, like mushroom leather, it is difficult for small brands to obtain, particularly as Malai currently only supply to UK based brand Ethical Living, Lucky Nelly in Germany, and Niti in India. For brands like our own, and for conscious consumers, we can only hope it is soon to be produced in large quantities as this type of leather breaks down naturally and prevents waste from being dumped.

Conscious consumers also face the issue of just how sustainable the vegan leathers are, such as Pinatex which is non-biodegradable due to the being coated with a petroleum-based material and PU leather, an alternative that is supposedly sustainable yet can use fossil fuels in the process of making it. Until more small brands can obtain fully sustainable leather alternatives, veg tan leather is potentially the best option for consumers as it holds properties that faux leather cannot provide.

Given the research we have uncovered are you more or less likely to buy products made from vegetable tan leather?

SD x

Information sourced from:


Featured image sourced from m0851, Unsplash.

Image 1 sourced from Pixabay, Pexels.

Image 3 sourced from Damir Omerovic, Unsplash.

Image 4 sourced from Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.


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