Energy + Environment, Products + Technology

Alternative Leathers Becoming Ready For Industrial Design

Alternative Leathers Becoming Ready For Industrial Design


Leather is not a dominant material in light fixtures, but it is sometimes used in decorative lighting. For several years, articles have been published about alternative leathers coming to interior design (furniture) and industrial design, but none of these alternative leathers have been commercially available for production until now.

First  though, what is alternative leather? The sustainability consequences of beef production are pretty well known, and most leather is a by-product of the meat/cattle industry, with an enormous carbon footprint and negative animal rights issues. Alternative leathers avoid the environmental and ethical problems of leather, by using plants, fungus, or plastic materials, instead of cowhide. Some of the plant-based leathers are made from pineapple, cactus, and other plants.

Everything from spent grain derived from beer production to fruit pulp from juice-making is being diverted from landfills to create alternative leathers. (Not all of these waste materials are animal-free—shrimp shells, for example, can be used to make a leatherlike material.)

Studio Gang is using fungus mycelium to create light fixtures for Populus, a hotel project in Denver billed as “carbon-positive.” Aybüke Dedeoğlu, a representative from Oleatex, a company that makes leather created from olive industry waste, says that multiple furniture companies are in the process of incorporating their materials into designs, and prototypes are being developed.

A couple of conferences have sprung up promoting the new world of bio and synthetic materials. Biofabricate is one new conference for alternative materials. The 2025 Biofabricate Summit will be held in Paris for the second year in a row. More information on Biofabricate is available here. Another conference is SynBioBeta 2025: The Global Synthetic Biology Conference, held in San Jose, California, May 5-9, 2025. More details here.

Top image: Mylo alternative leather made from fungus.

Image: 500 sheets of Reishi, fugus-based bio-leather, incorporated into lighting in the Populus Hotel in Denver, CO.


Image: Bio-based leather made from fermented fruit waste, by Mexican start up, Polybion.

Image: Bio-based leather made from fermented fruit waste, by Mexican start up, Polybion.

author avatar
David Shiller
David Shiller is the Publisher of LightNOW, and President of Lighting Solution Development, a North American consulting firm providing business development services to advanced lighting manufacturers. The ALA awarded David the Pillar of the Industry Award. David has co-chaired ALA’s Engineering Committee since 2010. David established MaxLite’s OEM component sales into a multi-million dollar division. He invented GU24 lamps while leading ENERGY STAR lighting programs for the US EPA. David has been published in leading lighting publications, including LD+A, enLIGHTenment Magazine, LEDs Magazine, and more.


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