Flower Power: Fleather, Sustainable & Vegan Friendly Alternative for Leather

Rachel Fowler – October 2020

Flowers, inject colour and add positive vibes to an interior with their varying shades of hues.  However, in some culture’s flowers are not just for brightening a space but are a key element of certain rituals, like prayer ceremonies.  This is particularly true in India, where an array of coloured flowers are used, ranging from bright orange to yellow.  Incidentally, India is close to the top of my bucket list.  But what happens to all of the flowers used during prayer ceremonies, at the end of each day?

Traditionally, the majority of these beautiful flowers would have been discarded into the river Ganges.  Flowers are a natural  plant product, so what harm could they do to the river Ganges?  What may not be obvious is that the flowers are grown using pesticides and insecticides.  When  discarded into the river, the chemicals pollute the water.  Thankfully, times are changing and they are now being turned into a new animal-friendly leather: Fleather.  Who would have thought that these delicate and beautiful flowers could be transformed to such a practical product?  Fleather was developed by Ankit Agarwal and Saumya Srivastava.

In 2017 Ankit Agarwal and Prateek Kumar started up Phool, an Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur-backed biomaterial start-up company based in Haling, Kanpur, India.  The company initially converted flora waste into a number of different products, including, charcoal-free incense.  However, in 2018 Ankit Agarwal and research scientist Saumya Arivastava decided to venture into the world of animal friendly leather.  It must be noted, India produces 12.9% of the world’s total hides.

Ankit Agarwal cites, “the company was founded to help illuminate the daily 8 metric tons of toxic floral waste, which used to be discarded into the river Ganges”.  The creation of the company has had other key positive effects.  For instance, the company employs women from the surrounding communities.  Therefore, creating a positive outlook for them and their families.  Today, these women are known as the ‘Flowercyclers’.

How did they discover Fleather?  A team of researchers from the above-named institute, were working on projects regarding flower waste and its uses.  After careful analysis of a pile of unused flowers, a dense fibrous mat was discovered.  This dense fibrous mat texture resembled something similar to leather.  This fibre was then created into a plant-based leather, Fleather.

In 2019 this new type of alternative for leather won the United Nations Sustainability award.   This led to the company being recognised by the fashion industry; Fleather is currently being used for the production of handbags and clothing.

As Fleather is made from flowers, it means the material is biodegradable at the end of its life.  Therefore, increasing the sustainable value of this product.  We all want to live a world, which promotes the wellbeing of every living thing.  This new type of alternative for leather fulfils the new demands of global society.  Therefore, promoting a more humane and healthier environment.  For more information on Fleather and other sustainable/environmentally products made by the company, click on the link, Phool.

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