Many faux and vegan leather alternatives are available today, and they are not all made the same. So what’s with apple leather, and is it worth the price tag? I will discuss that and more regarding this vegan faux leather with a natural twist.
Apple leather is a vegan leather material made with apple waste, polyurethane, and a fabric backing. It is sustainable, environmentally friendly, and durable. Apple leather is used to make shoes, handbags, upholstery, and even vehicle interiors, and it costs about $3–$12 per square foot.
Are you looking for a new leather alternative that is vegan, sustainable, and environmentally friendly? Want a new faux leather bag or wallet but not one made with 100% fossil fuels? Let’s explore the possibilities of vegan apple leather.
What Is Apple Leather?
Apple leather is faux leather made from apple waste and is water-resistant, breathable, and durable. The leather is made from leftover skin and pulp from juice factories. Apple leather is a sustainable, eco-friendly alternative to leather produced from animal hides.
What We’ll Explore
- Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
- History of Apple Leather
- Apple Leather Characteristics Quick Reference Table
- In-depth Characteristics of Apple Leather
- Pros of Apple Leather
- Cons of Apple Leather
- How Apple Leather is Made
- Production Stats for Apple Leather
- Cost of Apple Leather
- When You Might Leathercraft with Apple Leather
- Tips for Leathercrafting With Apple Leather
- Examples of Goods Made from Apple Leather
- My Personal Research on Apple Leather
- Apple Leather Care & Maintenance
- Helpful Insights on Apple Leather
- Key Takeaways
Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions
Some think that because it’s made with plant products, apple leather is not durable. However, apple leather is very durable — so much so it’s being used to make everything from shoes to car interiors.
Another misconception is that apple and other plant-based leathers are synthetic, which is not entirely true. The only synthetic materials used in apple leather are polyurethane to bind it together, and the base fabric is often made with polyester.
History of Apple Leather
The beginning of apple leather was in 2004 in Northern Italy. Inventor Alberto Volcan wanted to create something useful from the apple waste that was a byproduct of the compote and fruit juice industries.
He started making paper from 15% apple and eventually worked with an industrial waste recycling company for further product development. Vegetable glue was an early project that didn’t work out, but a pasta machine run with the product created a fabric that later became apple leather.
Apple Leather Characteristics Quick Reference Table
|Natural or Synthetic||Half natural, half synthetic|
|Surface Texture||Similar feel to cow leather|
|Available Thickness (oz/mm)||0.6-2.0 mm|
|Largest Workable Size||Varies|
|Ease of Maintenance (1–10)||2|
|How Long it Lasts (Daily Use)||5–7 years|
|Available Colors||Brown, black, red, blue, white, green, purple, pink, gray|
|Cost per Square Foot ($)||$3–12|
|Ease of Crafting (1–10)||5|
|Rarity (Common or Exotic)||Uncommon, rare|
|Annual Production Volume||$68 million USD|
|Biggest Exporting Country||Italy|
|Biggest Importing Country||Italy|
In-depth Characteristics of Apple Leather
Natural or Synthetic
Apple leather is considered half natural and half synthetic. It is made of up to 50% natural apple waste plus a cotton, jersey, microsuede, or polyester base, which is both natural and synthetic. It also contains polyurethane which is a synthetic material.
As a vegan leather, apple leather has an amazingly similar texture to real leather. It may be smooth or embossed with a leather-like texture.
The available thickness of apple leather can differ based on the manufacturer and its intended use. However, apple leather is generally available in thicknesses from 0.6mm–2mm. The thickness of apple leather used to make wallets or keychains might be around 0.6mm–1mm, or closer to 2mm for handbags and shoes.
Largest Workable Size
The sizes for apple leather can vary depending on the supplier and project. It’s important to check with the supplier for available size options or for help choosing the proper size of apple leather material for your specific project.
Apple leather is highly flexible and works well for clothing, shoes, upholstery, and more. However, the thickness of the apple leather you’re working with can influence its flexibility. Thinners leathers are often more flexible than thicker materials.
Regarding softness, apple leather is mid-range as it is more often used for handbags, wallets, shoes, and upholstery than clothing. The softness of apple leather can also depend on factors like the materials used, thicknesses of the material, and finishing techniques.
Because apple leather is a thin, flexible leather material, it’s fairly easy to sew; however, just how easy will depend on the specific apple leather you are working with. It’s good to use a proper leather sewing needle and practice on a scrap piece of material before trying to sew your project.
Apple leather is very resistant to abrasion and has high tensile strength. This means it is very durable — in fact, it has recently been used for the interiors of new electric vehicles.
Ease of Maintenance
Apple leather has some of the easiest maintenance in the vegan leather industry. A microfiber towel or old t-shirt dampened with water can clean away dirt and stains. Stubborn dirt may be removed with mild soap and water, but avoid getting apple leather too wet. Condition with leather conditioner or natural beeswax about every three months.
Lifespan With Daily Use
Apple leather is highly durable and, with the right care, can last five to seven years with daily use. Proper care and conditioning can maximize apple leather’s durability and lifespan. Avoid excessive moisture, harsh chemicals, and hot objects to prevent damage.
Apple leather is a sustainable, environmentally friendly leather alternative.
Apple leather comes in multiple colors, including:
In addition to solid colors, apple leather can be finished with textures such as embossing or printing, adding visual interest and depth to the material.
Apple leather is highly water resistant and is easily cleaned with water. Avoid exposing apple leather to too much water, wipe up spills, and do not submerge in water. It is more water resistant than real leather and doesn’t develop water stains.
Apple leather products are priced higher by about 50% than real or faux leather products; however, the sustainability and durability are worth the money. It is a renewable resource that has minimal impact on the environment.
Ease of Crafting
Apple leather is fairly easy to work with as it’s a thin, flexible material that is easy to shape, cut, and sew. The challenge with crafting with apple leather is that it’s a rare material that can be difficult to find and purchase.
Rarity (Common or Exotic)
Apple leather is considered rare and uncommon as it is not easily found in stores. However ,it can be ordered from some online retailers.
Watch this helpful video from Haya Al Khatib to learn more about where apple leather was made and how it was inspired.
Pros of Apple Leather
Apple leather has many benefits as an alternative to traditional leather. The pros of apple leather include:
- Environmentally friendly
- Highly durable
- Will not dry out
- Resistant to stains, UV rays, and water
Cons of Apple Leather
While apple leather offers several benefits, there are also some potential drawbacks. Some can are that apple leather is:
- Considered half synthetic and, unfortunately, is derived from fossil fuels
- Not biodegradable
- Made with polyurethane, a type of plastic
- Rare and can be difficult to find in stores but can be ordered online
How Apple Leather is Made
After juicing, apple peels and cores are collected, washed, and dried. They are then converted using a nano transformation which creates nanofibers that are mixed with polyurethane, pigmented, and spread onto sheets of cotton, microsuede, jersey, or polyester for backing.
Research published in the International Journal of Molecular Science by Bryszewska et al. found that adding apple powder to cellulose surfaces to create vegan apple leather favors the sheets’ mechanical properties, including strength and durability. The sheets are then patterned to form a natural leather look and texture and made into products from shoes to upholstery.
Production Statistics of Apple Leather
- Volume per year: Vegan leathers, including apple leather, have been steadily increasing over the past few years, with more growth predicted. In 2022, the volume of vegan leather was priced at about $68 million and is projected to grow at a rate of 7.5% to approximately $97 million by 2027.
- Key country or countries where it is produced: Most apple leather is manufactured in Italy.
- Biggest exporting country: Italy exports the most apple leather.
- Biggest importing country: Italy imports the most apple leather.
Cost of Apple Leather
Based on limited published pricing information and the costs of finished goods, apple leather costs about $3–$12 per square foot. However, the price can vary depending on the supplier, material quality, and tanning and finishing methods used.
When You Might Leathercraft With Apple Leather
- When wanting to try working with a new, exotic material.
- When doing smaller leather projects like wallets, watch bands, or jewelry.
- When you want the look of real leather but prefer a vegan material.
Tips for Leathercrafting With Apple Leather
- Practice on a scrap piece of apple leather before crafting your project.
- Use sharp cutting tools to prevent the material from fraying, making it more difficult to work with.
- Practice with patience, as apple leather is a thinner leather that can take some getting used to.
Some Examples of Items Made From Apple Leather
Think sustainable leather made from apple waste can’t be durable? Take a look at some examples of high-use items that are made from apple leather:
- Vehicle interiors
My Personal Research on Apple Leather
Apple leather is durable and very similar to real leather, but how does it compare in price? I researched commonly purchased items and compiled a list of high-quality products available in apple and real leather and their most common prices.
|Item||Real Leather Price||Apple Leather Price|
|Men’s dress shoes||$160–$276||$102–$203|
Apple Leather Care and Maintenance
How to Clean Apple Leather
Apple leather should be cleaned about every three months and when needed. All it takes is a microfiber towel or an old t-shirt dampened with water. Gently wipe the apple leather to remove dirt, scuffs, and spots. Mild soap and water may be used for stubborn dirt and stains. Allow it to air dry completely, then apply leather conditioner or natural beeswax.
How to Condition Apple Leather
Apple leather can be conditioned similarly to traditional leather using a quality leather conditioner or a natural beeswax every three months to keep it supple and looking great.
How to Store Apple Leather
Apple leather should be stored in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and direct heat sources. Take it out every three months to clean and condition it while not in use.
Helpful Insights on Apple Leather
What is apple leather?
Apple leather is faux leather made from apple skins and cores. It’s a sustainable way to use something that would otherwise be considered waste and create a great leather alternative. Apple leather consists of apple products, polyurethane, and base material.
Is apple leather real leather?
Apple leather is not real leather because there are no animal products involved. It is considered faux leather made from up to 50% apple, base material, and polyurethane.
Does apple leather last?
Apple leather is durable and can last several years with proper care. The average lifespan for apple leather products is five to seven years with everyday use.
Is apple leather expensive?
Apple leather is about 50% more expensive than other vegan leathers. This is due to high manufacturing costs, which vary according to the percentage of apple waste used in each apple leather product. Apple leather is a more sustainable and environmentally friendly choice than real leather.
What are the cons of apple leather?
Apple leather is half synthetic, and this requires the use of fossil fuels. There is some polyurethane or plastic in apple leather, which is not biodegradable. Apple leather is uncommon and difficult to find, but it can be ordered online through many vegan leather companies.
- Apple leather is a sustainable, environmentally friendly leather alternative.
- Apple leather is durable and comes in many great colors.
- Products made with apple leather can withstand everyday use and, with proper care, last five to seven years.
There are a few variations on how apple leather is made, but it is all vegan. Manufacturers are working on methods to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, plastics, and other synthetic materials to make it even more natural. Apple leather products are durable, look just like real leather, and are worth the higher price for a more natural product.
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