Vegan Leather Made From Grapes? Meet The Eco-Friendly Vegea

Do you love grapes? Why not wear them too? Faux leathers are often made from synthetic materials like polyurethane, but the Vegea company is changing that. They’ve found a way to create vegan leather made from grapes!

Keep reading to find out what makes this “wine leather” unique and why it might become part of your conscious wardrobe in the near future.

The story of Vegea

Francisco Merlino, an environmental chemist at the University of Florence, founded Vegea in 2016 along with Gianpiero Tessitore – a furniture designer with experience working in design using traditional leathers. Their goal? To continue to provide luxury goods for customers while being environmentally conscious!

Thanks to these entrepreneurs, wineries are turning their wine-making waste into luxury leather.

The company has been developing sustainable alternatives to traditional leather by integrating chemistry and agriculture innovation. According to their website, Vegea comes from the combination of VEG(vegan) and GEA(Mother Earth).

After three years’ worth of research, they discovered that grape skins, stalks, and seeds discarded during wine production are ideal for making 100% vegetal leather.

Smashed grapes for making vegan leather
Wine-making waste, like grape skins and seeds, can be transformed into vegan leather.

In collaboration with Italian wineries, they have developed a new way for these vineyards to turn grape waste dumped as part of the wine-making process into luxurious materials such as those used in handbags or shoes. 

RELATED ARTICLES: 5 Plant-based Vegan Leather Alternatives For The Conscious Fashionistas

The process, which is the first of its kind in Italy and one of many “green” approaches to fashion, involves adding value to the waste from grapes discarded during wine production with a technique patented by Vegea.

Currently, Vegea produces several types of grape-based alternatives to synthetic, oil-derived materials for fashion.

How is grape leather made?

Vegea customized the technology and machinery already used in the traditional leather industry to produce leather from the grape. The process starts when the remains of the wine production, the grape marc, are dried. The dry grape marc is then combined with vegetable oil and water-based polyurethane (PUD) to create an eco-composite material.

Then the bio-based material is coated into some fabric, organic cotton, for example, resulting in a leather alternative of more than 70% renewable and recycled raw materials

For every 10 liters of wine produced, about 2.5 liters of waste are generated. From that waste, 1 square meter of grape leather can be made.

wine waste to make vegan leather made from grapes
1 square meter of vegan leather can be made from the waste of 10 bottles of wine.

All Vegea’s fabrics are characterized by a high content of vegetal and recycled raw materials such as vegetal oils and natural fibers. They don’t add any solvents and are, of course, cruelty-free. Vegea products are compliant with the most strict European regulations (REACH).

They produce several textiles or materials that feature different thicknesses, elasticity, weight, finishing, and texture suitable for various applications.

Vegea has received several awards for their research and process, including:

  • Start&Cup Award (2015)
  • Start & Restart (2016)
  • The Innovation Made in Italy award from Unicredit (2017)
  • Global Change Award from the H&M foundation (2017)
  • Funding from Horizon (2020)

Products made from grape leather

In July 2019, Bentley announced that Vegea had been chosen for the interiors of their new car model. The decision to work with this company is a big win for Vegea and other companies as it opens up more opportunities within such an exclusive and prestigious field.

Fashion brand & Other Stories made a clutch and a pair of sandals of Vegea leather for Bandana Tewari to wear on the red carpet of the Global Change Award ceremony. In 2020, & Other Stories made a similar version of the Vegea heeled sandal available to their customers.

PANGAIA is another company that has recently designed a minimalist sneaker made with grape leather and other recycled products

Final thoughts

It’s important to note that, despite being a significant development to repurpose waste and being a more environmentally-friendly alternative, Vegea grape-leather material doesn’t degrade entirely and can be complicated to recycle. The main reason being the polyurethane (PUD) added to the fabrics.

I’m sure the company keeps innovating to remove the non-biodegradable substances from their fabrics, perhaps altogether. Still, until then, we should know that no material is perfectly sustainable so far.

What do you think of this incredible innovation? Let us know in the comments!

If you want to learn more about eco-friendly alternatives to leather, make sure to check out our article about Piñatex.