German startup Lovr, with help from the Technical University of Darmstadt, has developed plastic-free alt-leather using hemp waste.
According to the company, it is long-lasting and – crucially – “feels like the real thing”.
There has been an increase in demand for leather alternatives during recent years due to consumers’ efforts to end animal cruelty or on environmental concerns. According to a report, the synthetic leather market is expected to hit US$57 billion by 2028, with an annual growth rate of 7.8 per cent.
However, while faux leather is animal-friendly, it isn’t as sustainable as one might think.
Vegan leather can be made from plastics, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane, which take years to biodegrade, harming the environment. In addition, it is also not as durable as traditional leather, so it has a shorter product lifespan and ends up in landfills sooner.
There are already attempts to make bio-based leather, from apple waste to pineapple leaves. Still, according to the German startup Lovr, none has been produced on a truly commercial scale. It wants to make hemp a commercially viable alternative to leather.
The company’s founders, Lucas Fuhrmann, Montgomery Wagner and Julian Mushövel, say they aim to transform the way materials are made and combine agriculture, engineering, and design to bring their vision of a sustainable circular economy to life.
Hemp waste from agricultural farms that produce CBD products are the base for the startup’s material, which it claims is the world’s first 100-per-cent plant-based and plastic-free leather alternative.
With Lovr, we have developed a process to produce a leather-like material from a wide range of fibrous agricultural residues.
In addition, the hemp-based faux leather is fully biodegradable, which presents itself as a more sustainable alternative to other bio-based leather that is still finished with non-biodegradable glues or oils. In addition, the material is also free from harmful chemicals and fossil fuels.
Aside from fashion, the company plans to apply its hemp-based leather to a range of sustainable products in different industries such as automotive and furniture.
“Lovr is durable and long-lasting,” the company states on its website. “That is why it can and will be many things.”