Last week, the San Francisco fashion company rolled out two sneaker styles partially clad in leather scraps in a move that slashes the footwear’s environmental impact. A solvent-free polyurethane seals the eco-friendly material, a mash up of post-industrial leather scraps and recycled and virgin polyester that the ethical brand dubbed ReLeather. In all, Everlane claims this alternative leather is far less thirsty than its first-run counterpart, requiring 80 percent less water, thanks to a “unique process that eliminates the need to tan or dye the leather, which also lowers its overall carbon footprint.”
The label applied ReLeather to a new unisex tennis sneaker going for $100, and relaunched its dual-gender court silhouette, available in five colorways for $110, in the lower-impact material. But the experimentation is unlikely to stop there. Everlane says it’s “proactively” looking into alternatives to virgin leather and is open to sourcing from a supplier or cooking up its own concoction.
“This ReLeather launch is a step in the process of testing leather alternatives,” it added.
Compared to even five years ago, fashion is spoiled for choice when it comes to substitutes for animal-derived skins. Reformation rolled out “cereal leather” footwear capsule earlier this month, Fashion for Good handpicked a pair of alt-leather startups for its accelerator, mushroom-root material maker MycoWorks has attracted Hermès and Coach vets, and flora from cacti to pineapple inspire planet-friendlier options. Sustainable Composites makes a recycled leather, aka Enspire, in the vein of Everlane’s new input, grinding up scraps and rolling them into a sheet that looks, feels and smells like the real thing.
With so many material possibilities out there, the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America recently assembled a shoe sustainability guide that aims to help brands and sellers make sense of a sea of choices. The document “provides needed clarity and targets to help our industry work together toward amplifying a stronger foundation for sustainable footwear development,” said Caleres chief sourcing officer Dan Friedman, whose FDRA working group directed the guide’s development.
For Everlane, recruiting members of “long-time partner” L.A. Dance Project to star in the ReLeather campaign highlights the material’s—and footwear’s—comfort and durability. The California troupe says its mission is to “inspire, create, educate and change perspectives through the accessible and transformative power of dance.”