Material innovation is one of the most exciting things about vegan fashion, and Vilda is documenting the revolution from the front row: we have previously spoken about the negative impact of leather on the environment and about sustainable, natural vegan leather options. As technology advances, the new concept of “leather” is evolving, one that does not involve the slaughter of animals: cork, pineapple, mushroom and corn are just a few natural materials that have been used to create vegan shoes, bags and accessories.
A very exciting innovation is apple leather. Derived from apple pulp , this material is 100% biodegradable. Not only does the production of apple leather not impact the environment negatively, but it could actually have a positive effect. In fact, it has been demonstrated that when dried and powdered apple scraps are placed in containment barriers that are laid at sea to circumvent accidental oil spills, they are able to absorb 100% of hydrocarbons, leaving perfectly clean water.
The leather-like material, which is extremely robust and resistant, is produced by re-working leftovers from harvested apples – meaning apple seeds, cores and peel. The idea originates from Alberto Volcan, engineer and designer who found the link between apples and leather, both produced in similar areas due to climate reasons.
How the magic happens
Apple cores and peel are dehydrated, cooled and ground to stop decay and fermentation and leave the sugar and cellulose content unchanged. From this process, a white flour is obtained, containing 70% cellulose. As a matter of fact, this material was first used to create paper tissues. But the challenge is finding the balance between material sustainability and ethics, quality and style.
A brand that is successfully striking this balance and driving material innovation in the luxury vegan scene is one that we had the pleasure to visit during Milan Fashion Week is Nemanti Milano – a reborn brand, previously known as Opificio V, built around the concepts of Italian, Luxury and Vegan.
“I simply never stop looking for new materials and new trends. The most important parameter that drives me in the research process is the balanced ratio between ethical approach and quality of the product” – Paola Caracciolo, Founder of Nemanti Milano
At Nemanti, the production focuses on respect for animals, environmental sustainability and local production without outsourcing. We loved their story and shoes so much that we had to know more about how they are actually made. So we sat down for a chat with founder Paola Caracciolo.
“Before starting my own brand, I worked as the marketing manager of a supermarket chain. Therefore, a certain dress code was needed. What puzzled me back then, 13 years ago, was the poor availability of both cruelty-free and refined clothes or accessories, especially shoes. Since I’ve always been an animal-rights person, I decided to make them myself. Apple leather, as much as other fabrics born form food waste, is the result of a deep research into the cruelty-free fashion market. It’s not just about respecting animals, but nature in general: I also firmly believe in circular economy and waste-transforming processes.
Creativity comes always first: the full process starts with designing the sample by combining trending designs in luxury fashion industry with my own taste. Then I order stocks of the materials I need from trusted suppliers and ship them along with the design project to the artisan production sites dislocated in different Italian districts. That’s when the magic happens: wise and expert hands create the sample, giving life to the idea. After a few quality tests, when the prototype is approved, the production starts.
Our artisans are able to use their traditional machines while using apple leather. This is exactly what makes this fabric so appealing. What’s new is the process that brings apple scraps new life: since you cannot use all the scraps, only 30% of them are employed to create a fiber dough which is applied to a support tissue. All of our suppliers, including those producing apple leather, are strictly selected for their low impact approach, so the production itself does not affect the environment.
By keeping in mind that luxury, as a concept, is not just the material but much more. It lives in everything that makes a product unique and innovative. Our shoes are traditional and innovative at the same time, they’re produced in very small quantities since they’re handmade and respect the highest quality standards. By doing so, they also respect nature. I really cannot see how luxury could not be cruelty-free and, fortunately, my clients feel the same about it.”
“The awareness of pursuing an ethical mission by making vegan luxury products is the biggest satisfaction”
Apple leather is just one of the many innovative new faces of vegan fashion – Nemanti is at the forefront of the new wave of fabrics and materials to take over the future of sustainable style. We hope and believe that these cutting-edge technologies will lead the way for a conscious new world of trends.
Special thanks to Greta La Rocca
Images from Nemanti Milano