What does the top car manufacturer Bentley and top celebrities like Beyoncé or Ellen DeGeneres have in common? THEY ARE ALL VEGAN.
That’s right! The UK-based company founded in 1919 is one of the most expensive car brands worldwide, with models retailing for a minimum of $180,000 – if you don’t opt for interior and technical customizations that is. And now, it is catering to appeal to upmarket owners demanding ethical options and their vegan customers by exploring innovative custom-made non-animal materials for its interiors.
“You can’t sell an animal-containing product like a Bentley, with 20 leather hides, to someone with a vegan lifestyle,” Bentley’s Director of Design Stefan Sielaff said at the Future of the Car Summit in London, according to Auto Express. “We will shortly present a Bentley with a vegan interior; it’ll give you a luxury sensation but with a different way – protein leather, mushroom leather, jellyfish material,” he added.
However, this is not the first time the car industry is offering such an option – Bentley itself already offers customization through its Mulliner division.
Protein leather, or ‘pleather’, is already used for upholstery in less expensive brands. Synthetic leather was used by the US electric car manufacturer Tesla – who earned the PETA seal of approval with its first vegan interior – and several German car giants also offer similar options. Jaguar Land Rover revealed its new Range Rover Velar comes with a “vegetarian option” – with seat coverings made from recycled plastic bottles to replace luxury leather seats.
What makes Bentley stand out, however, is that they are not only looking into protein leather, but also mushroom leather and jellyfish material – the latter, however, is not a vegan friendly option.
Are you already facing difficulties keeping track of all these new leather alternatives? We feel ya. What started as a ‘fad’ and became a movement, is now transitioning into a widely accepted and catered to lifestyle – so we prepared a guide for you about what's brewing in the market for compassionate vegan customers, who are, as Sielaff describes, “the peak of a trend.”
Often used as an inexpensive substitute for leather, it is made from oil in the form of plastic – either PVC or polyurethane – Pleather is simply a slang term for “plastic leather", made by bonding the plastic to a fabric backing. Artificial leather is a fabric or finish intended to substitute for leather in fields such as upholstery, clothing, and fabrics, and other uses where a leather-like finish is required but the actual material is cost-prohibitive, unsuitable, or unusable for ethical reasons.
Petroleum-based synthetics aren’t good for the environment or the people who make it, and just don’t look the same.
"Protein leather,” made with a special type of resin as well as egg shell protein, is a synthetic leather and is more commonly known as “leatherette.” Some like to call it "pleather". However, it’s NOT the same as pleather. Although, some manufacturers and many distributors have started mislabeling their products due to the confusion that arose via misinformed individuals.
The benefits of protein-leather to animal hides are an allegedly longer lifespan, a better temperature comfort, less humidity in transporting and clearly to save animals.
From an environmental perspective, cows are costly to feed and raise, tanning their hides is toxic, and their slaughter is cruel and inhumane. Yet many consumers are brainwashed to believe animal hides are more luxurious to the touch, have stronger durability and viscerally respond positively to the scent of the leather interior of new car.
To tackle this challenge, companies like Modern Meadow have attempted to grow leather directly from skin cells. Others have sought replacements with synthetics. But fungi?!
The mushroom is already a multi-purpose organism: Aside from its ecological functions, it can be eaten as nourishment, brewed as tea, taken as a naturopathic remedy and used in dyes. But recent innovations have even more plans for the fungi – starting with a leather-like material! It is reportedly soft and possessed of anti-bacterial qualities, and is only, at this time, being produced by several start-ups. Here are two of its kind:
- Phellinus ellipsoideus – which is from the same family as the largest recorded mushroom in the world – is being used by a company called Muskin in making 100% vegetal leather extracted from mushroom caps. The mushroom is gathered and treated much like leather, but without the use of chemicals, making it 100% natural. Samples are currently sold by Life Materials in three variable sizes (just like traditional leather!)
Muskin resembles suede but is “much softer,” according to the Italy-based textile manufacturer. It is breathable, pliable, naturally water-repellant, and suitable for direct contact with human skin.
It is similar to, but not to be confused with Myx by Jonas Edvard – a Danish-made textile made by fusing commercial mushroom production waste with hemp or linen fibers to create a durable yet flexible matrix.
Life Materials also produces Nettle, a naturally insulating yarn; Cypress, a naturally antibacterial, anti-mold, relaxing, and deodorizing yarn; and Fiore, a goose down alternative which is not yet available.
- Mycellium Based Leather – San Francisco start-up Myco Works uses key ingredient mycelium, the microscopic, root-like threads of a mushroom that latch onto and colonize different substrates. The natural fiber can be grown and manipulated into myriad textures and shapes, according to Phil Ross, the chief technical officer at MycoWorks.