Leather is durable. It’s sturdy. And it has a high-quality finish which often only gets better with age and the more you use it.
Leather is in fact just a minimal part of BESTSELLER's total material consumption – around one percent. At the same time, leather processing has a high climate impact and can create a debate in itself as a by-product of the meat industry.
So, should we - as Denmark's largest fashion company - simply stop using leather altogether?
“It’s not a decision we are making now. But we are working on finding good leather alternatives, where we are 100 percent sure that they don’t just create another environmental problem, such as high plastic content or reduced quality and durability,” says Camilla Skjønning Jørgensen, BESTSELLER's Sustainable Materials & Innovation Manager, and elaborates:
“Such satisfactory alternatives don’t yet exist on a commercial scale. On the other hand, we currently see a lot of innovation when it comes to leather alternatives, gradually creating exciting, new opportunities.”
The development of leather alternatives happens with several different approaches simultaneously. And BESTSELLER is currently in the process of researching all of them via our Innovation Lab.
Some companies focus on innovation in the form of plant-based leather, which can be made from anything from apple waste to excess pineapple leaves. Others are inspired by mushroom production and are using mycelium that is the root-like structure of mushrooms, to develop a leather alternative. And some have found a way to grow laboratory leather by simply using a single animal cell. This cell acts as a seed that self-generates in bioreactors.
An investment in the future
Through our investment arm for sustainable fashion, Invest FWD, BESTSELLER has just invested in the last-mentioned alternative.
The company behind is called VitroLabs and can grow leather in just a few weeks via the cultivated laboratory cells. Through its Series A financing round, the biotech company has just received a total of $46 million to build and scale the world's first pilot production of cell-cultivated leather.
"VitroLabs is an exciting company with a team – and technology – that in the long run has potential to become an interesting alternative – among others – to conventional leather," says Jeppe Bredahl, responsible for investments at Invest FWD.
In general, the fashion industry is looking at a wide range of solutions to reduce its environmental impact. BESTSELLER is no exception, and in addition to the new investment in VitroLabs, Invest FWD has in recent years invested in a number of innovations, such as textile recycling and waste-to-fibre technologies. Those include Ambercycle, Circular Systems, Infinited Fiber and Evrnu.
"We constantly seek to identify the opportunities that are most aligned with our overall strategy: to invest in innovation that can accelerate the future we want for the fashion industry," Jeppe Bredahl concludes.