Like many other plant leathers, corn leather is a high-quality material partly made with waste plant content. In this article, we explore this innovative material to understand how it is made and how it can be used.
Corn leather is an animal-friendly alternative to leather. It is considered a next-generation material because it combines 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.
The amount of corn in the material can vary. This varying content helps to create different characteristics that allow the material to be used for different applications. For example, our collection uses a corn-based material with 30% plant content to produce small accessories such as wallets and card holders. The material is soft and supple and has an ideal thickness for folding and stitching. This enables us to deliver a high-quality finish. On the other hand, the corn-based material used to craft handbags and purses is thicker. It has 45% plant content and feels firmer, giving structure and integrity to our bags.
Some corn leathers are a good choice compared to next-generation materials such as cactus leather (30% plant content) and apple leather (up to 27% plant content).
Corn is an annually renewable material. Once harvested, the corn undergoes a fermentation or chemical transformation to extract dextrose. This process doesn't require the use of petrochemicals. The fibres are derived from dextrose, a simple sugar in corn. The dextrose is used to create a polymer. The polymer is formed into "pellets", which can be extruded and used to make various products, including fabrics 1.
Corn leather is available in several textured finishes. It can be smooth with a feel like that of traditional goatskin 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.
Absolutely. Corn leather is designed to be a lower-impact, more sustainable alternative to animal leather.
In 2019/20, the United States was the biggest corn producer worldwide, with a production volume of over 345 million metric tons. This accounted for over one-third of the global corn production 2.
Most of the corn that is grown is produced by GM crops that are engineered to be herbicide (weed killer) resistant. This treatment will not harm the genetically engineered crop, but it does create chemical residues and runoff, making it disastrous for surrounding ecosystems 3.
This is where research and choice of supplier are essential. 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 their corn-based materials.
Absolutely. When cared for properly, corn leather is highly durable and long-lasting. A warm, soapy cloth will remove residue, dust and marks from plant leather. As with all materials, abrasives, cleaners and bleaching chemicals should be avoided.
We all know that the most sustainable items are those which we already own. One of the primary reasons for clothing and accessories to end up in landfills is their lack of durability. Buying items made from durable, long-lasting materials may cost a little more, but the investment is worth it.
Traditional, classically designed accessories will compliment your clothing for much longer than fast-fashion fads, 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 this article 'The Environmental Impact of Fashion'.