There was a time when smoking was as common on TV as sponsored sneaker ads are on Instagram. But that’s outdated now. And leather is going the same way, according to Nicolaj Reffstrup, the founder of Ganni. The revered Danish fashion label is phasing out animal-based leather from 2023 in favor of a more sustainable grape-based alternative.
Ganni has partnered with Italian brand Vegea, which produces biomaterials for a number of industries, from automotive to fashion. Among its sustainable and innovative creations is a vegan leather made from grape skin, stalks, and seeds leftover from the wine industry.
Ganni isn’t Vegea’s first major client. Last year, H&M teamed up with the company to create vegan leather handbags and shoes. With Ganni, Vegea will help to create eight new footwear designs.
Banning leather is a huge step for Ganni, which currently relies heavily on animal-based materials to create its designs.
Ganni’s sustainability plan, and leather’s environmental impact
“We’re phasing out leather completely by 2023, as it conflicts with our efforts to minimise our impact due to high levels of methane emissions from the livestock,” said Reffstrup, per Fashion United. Animal agriculture emits 14.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, plus it’s linked to high levels of deforestation and water pollution.
Leather must be tanned to stop it from decomposing (after all, it is the skin of a dead animal). The highly toxic chemicals from this process enter rivers and streams, harming ecosystems, and they endanger tannery workers too. Chromium (used in 90 percent of leather production) is a Group 1 carcinogen.
But plant-based leather presents a more sustainable alternative. Vegea’s material, in particular, is made without any toxic chemicals, and uses up food waste (another major polluter). Plus, without the need for any animal hides to make it, it’s more ethical. “It’s a step in the direction towards a more responsible collection,” continued Reffstrup.
Ganni is one of the first designer brands to choose to step away from leather. In 2019, designer Stella McCartney, who has never used leather in any of her collections, called out brands for not paying enough attention to leather’s detrimental impact on the planet, and instead focusing on banning fur or exotic skins.
She said: “What’s the difference between an exotic skin and a cow skin? I don’t get it—that’s the same conversation to me. If you really mean it, stop using leather, full stop, and then you’ll see a massive, massive change in [fashion’s] environmental impact.”
Ganni will begin phasing out leather in its Spring/Summer 2022 collection. By 2023, the material will be gone from its designs forever.