One of the biggest news this year was American actress Meghan Markle marrying Prince Harry and becoming part of the British royal family. A feminist fur-free flexitarian who wears ethical fashion and has convinced Harry to stop hunting, Meghan is exactly the badass 2018 royal we all needed. Her first birthday as a royal was of course big news – and on the gift front, this was an unexpected moment for vegan fashion to step into the spotlight.
In a bid to introduce leather alternatives to the Duchess’ wardrobe, PETA chose to gift her a vegan bag. But not any vegan bag. This was a bag in Freedom Leather – a plastic-free vegan material – from Polish cruelty-free accessory brand Alexandra K. Cue media madness: ELLE proclaimed they “need it in their lives“, and all of a sudden, everyone wanted a piece of this innovative accessory label.
What makes Alexandra K so ground-breaking? At a glance, the Polish accessory label seems like just another one in a long line of leather-free fashion brands cropping up in the last few years: clean lines, classic designs and a variety of accessories, from handbags to wallets. But there is more to this chic boutique than meets the eye: the USP of this fashion house lies in its material choices, carefully studied to produce items that tread as lightly on the planet as possible.
The Alexandra K approach to fabric innovation is that of uniting animal-friendly vegan philosophy with environmental sustainability. Capitalising on the vegan trend is an easy way for some brands to sell cheap PVC-based faux leather that is an environmental nightmare (albeit less so than animal leather), creating a divide between veganism and eco-friendliness. Not so Alexandra K, who brilliantly proves that truly sustainable fashion is both.
Materials pioneered in the luxury fashion space by Alexandra K include:
Freedom Leather, a plastic-free faux leather made from 100% silicone. This petroleum-free material requires less water, resources and electricity to produce than PVC and PU. It is also free from chlorine and solvents, which means it is free from volatile organic compounds – organic chemicals that are linked to some solvents. These vaporise at room temperature and can be harmful to human health and the environment.
Freedom Leather is also abrasion-resistant as well as stain-resistant and hypoallergenic. It is UV-resistant, meaning that it is less prone to aging due to sunlight exposure, which commonly happens with both leather and other kinds of faux leathers.
Peace Leather and Peace Suede, Italian-made fabrics made from blends of recycled polyamide and recycled PU. These materials require less use of solvents and less energy consumption than conventional vegan leathers, are treated with water-based dyes and are PVC-free.
Peace Leather and Peace Suede are hypoallergenic, non-toxic and stain- and scratch-resistant.
Apple leather is one of the most interesting and exciting innovations in vegan fashion. This revolutionary material is made from re-working leftovers from apple harvests, such as seeds, peel and cores, into a a resistant, durable material.
Apple leather is non-toxic and biodegradable, and it’s also UV-resistant and highly breathable (editor’s note: I have seen an apple leather bag and wallet from Alexandra K and their weight and graininess make them feel like animal-derived leather. They really have that heavy, high-quality feel to them).
Pinatex is a material made from pineapple leaf fibres – it’s entirely biodegradable, recyclable and fully natural – and a true marvel of the vegan fashion revolution. Created by Dr Carmen Hijosa of material innovation company Ananas Anam, Pinatex led the way for the new wave of vegan leathers that are natural, sustainable and completely cruelty-free.
Recently Alexandra K has expanded their line into vegan biker jackets, crafted from Peace Suede. These oversized designs are versatile enough to be worn over chunky, heavy knitwear as well as slinky summer dresses.
As they go from strength to strength, we can expect more innovative vegan fashion from Alexandra K in 2019 – this is one brand that will define the sustainable fashion revolution still to come.
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All photos courtesy of Alexandra K