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With growing consumer awareness and leading fashion houses like Hugo Boss, Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood and Fenty by Rihanna taking a strong stance against natural leather, vegan substitutes have stamped their authority on the clothing industry. According to a report by Grand View Research (GVR), the global vegan leather market is set to be worth $53 billion by 2027. As a significant part of the holistic vegan lifestyle, this form of leather is taut to positively affect deforestation, eutrophication, greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and other large-scale planetary issues. Despite similar aesthetic and appearance, this modern alternative differs from its traditional counterpart very fundamentally - it does not use any animal products. The animals are instead spared the solely-breeding-related confinement, castration, dehorning and docking. The broad division in composition between real leather, recycled-plastic compounds and plant-based fibres plays a fundamental role in determining the potential viability and limitations of the finished products: "Despite similar aesthetic and appearance, this modern alternative differs from its traditional counterpart very fundamentally - it does not use any animal products." Images courtesy - theminimalistvegan.com Contrary to popular belief, animal leather has a wide range of benefits Natural, vegetable-tanned leather has, and will continue to get, a bad rap because of its implications for the animals. It may be impossible to fathom sporting the hide of an innocent creature in isolation but what if the inevitable byproduct of the meat industry was instead simply dumped in a landfill? It's important to remember that the original is: - Durable The resilient and hardy natural fabric ensures that it does not have to replaced regularly; even as it continues to age over time it forms a patina that adds to its character. - Versatile The lightweight and flexible nature of the material make it perfect for everything ranging from belts, jackets, dresses and shoes to handbags, backpacks and wallets. - Consistent The highly textured composition of fibres continues to render the finished products a timelessness and status symbol that cannot be replicated. - Clean Natural leather and natural tanning agents like seed and bark oil do not contaminate water bodies unlike certain chemical-laden vegan surrogates. Plastic-based leather is prevalent but brings its inherent drawbacks to the vegan world The vegan leather market is actually dominated by poly-fabrics and plastic-based proxies. Even if recycled, materials like PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and PU (polyurethane) pose a threat to the sanctity of our environment and delicate ecosystems: - Chemically-abundant processes Plastic requires industrial-grade production. Augmenting the manufacture of these potentially harmful materials with technological advancements, however, is curtailing the release of hazardous toxins into the environment. - Synthetic features Non-plant based vegan replacements often lack the high breathability and durability of their natural relatives. These features are ably replaced, however, by a glossy finish, waterproof coating, UV resistance and a significantly-reduced risk of oxidation. - Mass-production The pseudo, manufactured elements are significantly cheaper to produce and encourage impulse buying. They do not typically last more than 3-5 years so the potential for replacement and landfill waste is higher. Rashi Agarwal Favier, Founder of Raff, a homegrown company that only deals with genuine vegetable tanned buff leather, echoes similar thoughts - "We want customers to make well-informed decisions and fully comprehend the impact of their purchases. A vegan label doesn't automatically confer superiority; PU and PVC are very harmful for the environment.” "It may be impossible to fathom sporting the hide of an innocent creature in isolation but what if the inevitable byproduct of the meat industry was instead simply dumped in a landfill?" The new wave of innovative plant-based leather The recently-introduced, naturally-sourced vegan alternatives constitute only a small fraction of the faux leather market. Skin and tanned hide have been replaced by sustainable materials including cork, mushroom caps, apple peels, pineapple leaves and other fruit waste. They represent the best of both worlds because they are: - Eco-friendly This form of leather is biodegradable, voids the carbon emissions from cattle farming and takes advantage of excess/waste organic matter thereby reducing overall consumption. - Ethical The value chain creates all-round empowerment by connecting the benefits for producers and consumers through the provision of comfortable working conditions and cruelty-free products. - Efficient The cultivation process requires only a fraction of the resources - such as land, water and energy - when compared to the farmed animal industry. With materials like leather and fur coming under increased scrutiny from individuals, brands, animal rights organisations and even the government, plant-based substitutes and other eco-friendly solutions have continued to gain momentum in the fashion department. Unfortunately, vegan or not, leather can be a harmful fabric at multiple levels of the supply chain so it's important to consider the entire lifecycle and ask important questions like - Where is my leather coming from? How responsible is this brand? And am I choosing quality over quantity? One sustainable option to reduce our carbon footprint is to dive into the second-hand market and invest in used goods. Another one that is backed by technological advancements but currently lacks accessibility is lab-grown leather. "... it's important to consider the entire lifecycle and ask important questions like - Where is my leather coming from? And how responsible is this brand?..." Image Courtesy - luxury-design.com and stylecaster.com If high quality can be delivered consistently at-scale, to the point where consumer mindsets evolve from “this is a great product… for a leather-alternative” to "this is a great product”, however, vegan leather - especially the plant-based variety - will begin to command the same respect as vegan foods and establish itself as the norm. Brands such as Raff are spearheading the leather revolution by augmenting the tough material with intricate design elements, preservation of traditional crafts and a transparent production process. Shop chemical-free, locally-sourced premium leather accessories below: "If high quality can be delivered consistently at-scale... vegan leather will begin to command the same respect as vegan foods and establish itself as the norm "
TedxCubbonPark’s Countdown Initiative in collaboration with Bare Necessities this month was just the pick-me-up we all needed during these uncertain times. By curating an amazing lineup of experts from specific niches of energy, food, art and design, they were able to spark a dialogue around the all-encompassing concept of sustainability. More specifically - they were able to deep dive into different entry points, personal connections to the cause and just ensuring everyone does their bit. We are so glad that we were able to virtually attend but we made a trip down to the park anyway to get the complete experience. Here's what we learned: ADITI MAYER - Diving deeper than consumption The tragedy of Rana Plaza exposed the politics of labour, colonial patterns of exploitation and the true environmental impact of fashion. The toll on human lives was the manifestation of a system that predicated on low costs, quick production and malicious practices. The larger fashion narrative has since changed course. The new sustainability roadmap necessitates reducing consumption, addressing wealth inequality, improving accessibility, propagating symbiotic relationships with people and nature, re-orienting metrics of success beyond linear monetary growth and exploring models rooted in circularity. Sustainability has been rebranded, recontextualised and reintroduced as a consumer act but it's important to look beyond the narrow purview of consumption. The ethical onus cannot fall entirely on unlearning; the entire industry must instead be held accountable for normalising cannibalistic practices. Long-overdue changes like localised textile production, ethical supply chains and fair labour systems, however, demand an intersectional approach to race, gender and class. The journey to align ourselves with ancestral roots and decolonize the industry begins at home. From buying local and banning plastic to encouraging hand-me-downs and mending clothes - sustainability needs to be a lifestyle and cultural standard, not just a consumptive preference. Instagram: @aditimayer MANSOOR GOUS - Vocal for local initiatives Waste entrepreneurs like Mansoor 'Bhai' are now eligible for loans and hence better livelihoods. Hasiru Dala - a social enterprise that works with marginalised waste pickers - provides Mansoor and his team of 12 with identity cards for such official purposes and they in turn provide the organisation with over 200 tonnes and 35 categories of ready recyclable material that would have otherwise been discarded to landfills. If waste generation cannot be avoided, waste segregation is the next best alternative. Mansoor has channeled his humble background, unparalleled work ethic and 15+ years of experience to found a recycling association that provides relevant data to the government and helps them better understand the impact of waste and plight of workers. His achievements have seen him invited to the Paris United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCC) but snubbed by the BBMP despite the direct benefit to their organisation. The waste pickers unfortunately continue to only earn from what they sell and not from the collection itself. Visit your local collection centre to get a better understanding of dry waste management. The solutions to global environmental issues, including climate change, already exist; we just need to be more proactive as a community and identify and support these great initiatives. Instagram: @mansoorgous ADITI VEENA - Music as a tool for change Musicians such as Aditi "Ditty" Veena are spearheading the music-for-change initiative with folk-tinged songs that reflect an organic and earthy quality. She is a true wildchild and grew up outdoors; 'Daddy's Little Girl' and 'Earth' are a few of her songs rooted in personal struggle and despair about the plight of our planet. Using music as a tool for change is activism in its purest form. We aren't separate from nature; we are one. The boundaries we have created with other living beings are unfounded. Our actions are causing severe disturbances to the natural ecosystem and we are in danger of losing several precious resources forever. We aren't separate from nature; we are one. The boundaries we have created with other living beings are unfounded. Instagram: @heyyditty NIRUPA RAO - Finding solace in a changing landscape Changes to Bangalore's natural landscape in the recent past have been blindly accepted as the inevitable consequence of development. From 70% vegetative cover a few decades ago to just over 10% today, 'The Garden City' has had an industrial makeover to say the least. Cubbon Park's 300 acres of pure greenery in the heart of the city and the beautiful peaks of the Western Ghats have, however, stood the test of time and served as inspiration for botanical illustration - the practice of painting plants or trees using water colours in an aesthetically pleasing and scientifically accurate manner - for Nirupa Rao and many others. Because of the long life cycles of most trees, Nirupa's paintings of the 30 most fantastical indigenous species in the Ghats took over 2 years and had to be done in close collaboration with expert ecologists Divya and Sridhar. Illustrations like myristica swamp, elephant yam and sundews have become her means of self-learning and rediscovering her childhood. Funding from a National Geographic grant has helped her tell plant stories and help others understand their value. These stories reaffirm the importance and hidden beauty of our local biodiversity. Instagram: @niruparao PRANOY THIPAIAH - a day in the life of a producer Producers like Pranoy Thipaiah are incorporating modern farming techniques to build transparent farm to table communities and elevate undervalued local produce to hero ingredients at some of the top kitchens in the country. For him, speciality coffee, rugby-sized avocados and pungent pomelos have been the standout. What's even more interesting is seeing such producers dive deeper into the natural ecosystem and a less-consumer facing world. Pranoy, for example, propagates three F's that exist within the Kerehaklu boundaries - the rich Flora, robust Fauna and rare Fungi. Every species, however, is tied together by their adaptation to the microclimatic conditions of Chikmagalur. The overarching plantation is also subject to an abundance of fallen wood so every unit out of the workshop furthers a search for meaning in design. Successfully bridging the gap between producers and consumers and plugging holes across agricultural value chains have proven that it is possible to coexist with local biodiversity. This progressive movement has also subsequently re-emphasised the innate value of a fully-functional ecosystem and communicating every story. Successfully bridging the gap between producers and consumers and plugging holes across agricultural value chains have proven that it is possible to coexist with local biodiversity. Instagram: @kerehaklu Conclusion The way we produce, consume and dispose needs to be re-contextualised - this much is clear. Sustainability is a constant learning process and these pathbreakers are paving the way with their respective takes on climate change. The underlying message was to champion authenticity while being the change that we want to see. With the year coming to an end, RO is going full circle - we are re-tracing our sustainable roots and re-defining what that means in the current climate. We’re working on creating a code that de-glamourises sustainability and negates the inflexion of buzzwords. The onus of being responsible and mindful is not just on the consumer and we want our platform to reflect that.
To be rooted is to be connected to ourselves and our environment. It necessitates an understanding of where we come from, why we feel and behave in certain ways and what we can do better. Rooted Objects (RO) is an independent publication and shop. We promote design that is beautiful, aware and rooted .
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