how to make leather from plants

What Is Leaf Leather?

Leaf leather is an innovative plant based leather alternative made from tree leaves. It’s better than traditional leather because it’s more environmentally friendly and created from tree leaves so it doesn’t require harming animals.

It can also be made just as strong and durable as animal leather, and even water resistant like our own Tree Tribe Leaf Leather.

I think you’ll dig this article if you came here wanting to know about leaf leather, but if you want to see some products check out our collection of Leaf Leather wallets and accessories.

2020 UPDATE

We’ve been working with leaf leather for 3 years now. Our process has gotten better, we have new colors, and we have new leaves (see Banana Leaf Leather).

Scroll to the bottom of this post to see the FAQ from customers + what we’ve learned in the years of creating and selling plant based leather.

EVERY PLANT HAS A STORY

You can use a variety of plants (and fungi) to make plant based leather – tree leaves, pineapple leaves, mushrooms, soy bean waste, even kombucha!

These are all cool and each has their own unique properties.

We support all plant based non-leathers, but here at Tree Tribe we chose Teak leaves because they are huge leaves that can be harvested sustainably, and when crafted into leaf leather, their natural designs live on permanently in the product.

brown teak leaf walletBeautiful designs created by nature

HOW IT’S MADE

Each style has a different story, here is the process we use for making Teak leaf leather:

  1. Sustainably harvested Teak leaves are collected from fallen leaves. No trees are harmed in the process
  2. The leaves are soaked in water, dyed, then arranged flat together and set out to dry, which bonds the leaves and provides a large sheet of the leaf material.
  3. The leaf layer is mended with cotton fabric to provide a soft interior backing and structure.
  4. A thin translucent outer layer made from a non-toxic BOPP film is applied that seals the leaf layer and protects it while maintaining the texture and feel of the leaves. This layer also provides water proofing, durability, and longevity. While not perfect (yet), when incinerated BOPP film only gives off water vapor and carbon dioxide.
  5. With the leaf leather material complete and strengthened, it can now be sewn into any accessories imaginable.

Part of being eco friendly is being durable. We take pride in creating super durable products that last for many years, cutting back on waste and transportation + saving you money! 💵

HANDMADE AND ETHICAL

The entire process of crafting Teak leaf leather is a traditional hand made art from  Thailand.

Our partners are a small family business of Thai artisans and skilled seamstresses that share eco friendly values and have a passion for quality crafting. I (Joe) have spent significant time with them and experienced this first hand. We continue to work closely with them to bring our combined ideas to life as the Tree Tribe Leaf Leather collection.

Every piece is unique, so the designs in our leaf leather gear are truly one of a kind – you get a unique piece of art that shows the beautiful variances of nature.

Our leaf leather is more than a product, it’s a symbol of bringing together communities around the world that share a passion for a healthier planet.

ANIMAL FRIENDLY, NATURAL VIBE

Leaf leather is an innovative material and brings us closer to nature. Using plant based products carries the natural energy of the Earth with you, and by using plants instead of animals, you are also exercising greater compassion.

We support the vegan community and recognized a lack of plant based leather alternatives, which fueled us to expand our collection and create more products.

We are all about offering conscious consumption options, and we love spreading the nature vibe, which is why we love the Teak leaf style that captures the essence of the leaf and permanizes it.

A sustainable source for leaves – Teak forests in Thailand

WHY LEAF LEATHER?

  • Plant based and cruelty free
  • More environmentally friendly than animal leather and faux leather
  • Hand made with love
  • Carry the nature vibe with you with cool leaf designs
  • Strong, durable, and water resistant so your leaf leather gear will last for many years
  • Cool designs and vibrant colors

OUR STORY

Tree Tribe is a community driven outdoor lifestyle brand that plants a tree on every sale. We focus on using eco friendly materials in all of our products, and are on a mission to make a major positive impact on the world.

We’ve been known to create products based on ideas and feedback of our customers and our Tribe, and continue to have a virtual open door policy to collaborate and create consciously.

We’ve planted over 400,000 trees in 12 different countries, and will continue to innovate and expand our eco friendly clothing and accessories.

Tree Tribe collage of adventurersTree Tribe is a global community that celebrates the beauty of nature

2020 UPDATE: BANANA LEAF LEATHER + FAQ + THINGS WE LEARNED

The Banana leaf leather production process is similar to making Teak leaf leather. Here are the highlights:

  • The leaves are used from leftover banana harvesting 🍌
  • Next they’re sun dried 🌞
  • Then they’re soaked in water overnight and heat smoked to make the leaves nice and flexible + add color saturation
  • Now the leaves are arranged in larger sheets and sun dried again to mend the leaves 🌞
  • Finally, they are binded with fabric on the backside and reinforced with a thin laminate outer layer to make them strong and water resistant.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is leaf leather really durable?

A: Yes, extremely durable. The Terminator couldn’t tear a leaf leather in half. It will last you years. That’s the reason for the thin laminate layer on the outside. It makes it super strong + water proof.

Q: These are made in Thailand, how do I know they’re ethically made?

A: We’re not a corporation, we don’t answer to shareholders, we answer to the Earth. We exist to be the company that creates consciously and gives back to the Earth. We like people. ✊

But hey maybe you don’t know us personally, so we should explain more with some highlights of my experience (as the founder and lead product designer).

I’ve been traveling to Thailand every year since 2015. I lived in Thailand for a year, this is how I found our manufacturing partner.

I visit every when I go back, I spend time in their shop every, brainstorm ideas, help design products, and watch how they make our products.

They’ve shown me teak leaf forests (anyone who knows me knows I love a good forest 🌲😃). There are leaves all over the ground, and they’re huge! The key to leaf leather is using spent leaves, keeping the process sustainable.

We’ve gone out to eat together (they take me to the suuuuper local spots where nobody speaks English, only Thai 🙏), we’ve drank beers together (Singha bia khraaab) 🍻, that’s the clincher relationship builder for me.

They’ve thanked us for spreading the word on leaf leather and helping them grow and employ more staff and build their tribe.

They’ve won awards from the government for being eco friendly, they care about the planet just like we do. 🌏

Long story short, we only work with quality partners that share our values, and I vet our partners by getting to know them and drinking beers with them in their home country. 😃

Q: Do you sell the raw material?

A: We’ve thought about it but collectively with our Thai partners decided it’s best for everyone to focus on making accessories. We take custom orders though, andcan make modifications and satisfy bulk orders.

Q: Do these “wear in” like regular leather?

A: Yes, the wallets especially they can be stiff to start, then after a couple weeks they loosen up nice

Q: Are these RFID blocking?

A: No, and we’re not concerned about it (we use the wallets too of course). From the research I’ve done, RFID blocking is mostly a savvy marketing tactic and not necessary for most people.

Q: Will it fade?

A: Probably not. In our experiments + customer Q and A, there is little to no fade over the years. We only have 3 years of data but so far so good.

Q: Can you make product X or Y in leaf leather?

A: We’ll try. Contact us if you have any requests and we’ll see what we can do!

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