Corn leather is an animal friendly alternative to leather. It is considered a next-generation material, because it is a combination of organic plant material and PU (polyurethane). The corn used for making the base material is a non-food grade crop, so it doesn't divert food resources from human or animal supply chains.
How much corn is in corn leather?
It can vary. The amount of plant content in next-generation materials creates different characteristics, allowing the material to be used for different applications. For example, in our collection we use a corn-based material with 30% plant content for small accessories such as wallets and card holders. This material is soft and supple and an ideal thickness for folding and stitching to a high-quality finish. On the other hand, the corn-based material used to craft handbags and purses, is thicker. It has 45% bio content and feels firmer which gives structure and integrity to our bags.
Corn-based materials are a good choice when compared to next-generation materials such as cactus leather (30% plant content) and apple leather (up to 27% plant content).
How is corn leather made?
Corn is an annually renewable material. Once harvested, the corn undergoes a fermentation process or a chemical transformation to extract dextrose. This process doesn't require the use of petrochemicals. The fibres are derived from dextrose, a simple sugar which exists in corn. The dextrose us used to create a polymer. The polymer is formed into “pellets”, that can be extruded and used to make a variety of products, including fabrics.
How does corn leather feel?
Corn leather is available in several textured finishes. It can be smooth with a feel like that of traditional goat skin leather. It can be grained, printed with a crocodile print and even metallic. Regardless of the texture corn leather can be crafted with the same techniques as traditional leather to produce beautifully crafted items you can use every day.
Is corn leather vegan?
Absolutely. Corn leather is designed to be a lower impact, more sustainable alternative to animal leather.
Is the growing of corn for materials sustainable?
In 2019/20 the United States was by far the biggest corn producer worldwide, with a production volume amounting to over 345 million metric tons. This corresponded to over one third of the global corn production (2).
Most of the corn grown is produced through GM crops which have been engineered to be herbicide (weed killer) resistant. This treatment will not harm the genetically engineered crop, but does create chemical residues and run off, making it disastrous for surrounding ecosystems. (3)
This is where research and choice of supplier are important. Brands wishing to avoid GMO crops can choose suppliers who only source non-GMO raw materials. The supplier we use in Italy does not use GMO crops to produce corn-based materials.
Is corn leather durable?
Absolutely. When cared for properly corn leather is extremely durable and long lasting. A warm soapy cloth will remove residue, dust and marks from the material. As with all materials abrasives cleaners and bleaching chemicals should be avoided.
Sustainability in fashion
We all know that the most sustainable items are those which are already in our wardrobe or accessories we already own.
One of the primary reasons for clothing and accessories to end up in landfill is their lack of durability. Buying items which are made from durable, long-lasting materials may cost a little more, but the investment is worth it.
Traditional, classic designs will compliment your clothing for a lot longer than fast-fashion fads which are designed to last only a few wears.
To learn more about the volume of waste created by the fashion industry and the damage it is causing on a global scale, check out our article 'The Environmental Impact of Fashion'.