Most people in this world most likely use grapes as a delicious snack in combination with cheese, on their own, on a roll or in combination with alcohol,- as wine.
Around 27 billion litres of wine are produced every year.
About seven billion tonnes of this is production waste, as the stems, skins and seeds of the grapes do not end up in the wine bottle. These so-called "pomace" are very rich in nutrients and are partly reused as fertiliser or animal feed. However, there is another way to make a product from these pomace, namely sustainable shoes and handbags.
People have been looking for a vegan alternative to animal leather for quite some time. Since there is leather that is not a waste product of meat production, extra animals are killed for their fur for this.
Because of this, Italian architect and furniture designer Gianpiero Tessitore, while searching for an alternative to petroleum-based animal leather, looked into the properties of various plant fibres. This collaboration took place with the University of Florence and other research centres. After intensive research, Francesco Merlino, an environmental engineer at the University of Florence, discovered that grape marc was ideal for producing a vegan leather. Merlino and Tessitore are now business partners. As a result, Tessitore patented the production process of his "wine leather". He founded a company called Vegea in 2016.
His company has been dedicated to researching and producing sustainable materials for the textile industry.
The advantages of this type of leather are that it is very similar to real animal leather, both in mechanical and sensory properties. Furthermore, no water is used in the production process. The wine leather does not require any costly and toxic tanning. In comparison, the production of animal leather uses massive amounts of chemicals and toxic heavy metals.
As mentioned above, animals are partly kept for their skin, whereas wine leather is purely vegetable.
This sustainable leather is not only used to make clothes, shoes, bags and accessories, but also upholstered furniture and car seats.
Finally, let's take a brief look at the recipe for sustainable leather. For the "wine leather", the sorted grapes are procured, mixed with vegetable oils, baked and then ground into a fine powder.