Is vegan leather a leather fabric or is it a sparkling wine not Champagne?
It is now common knowledge that as a result of legislation around the globe quite some time ago a sparkling wine cannot call itself 'champagne' unless it actually comes from the Champagne district of France. Those products are leading examples of product descriptions which need to comply with relevant laws about the composition of the production and the information to the consumer about what it is, where it comes from etc so as not to mislead or deceive.
Following in that vein has been the increasing use of animal-based terms in conjunction with terms to indicate that the product is not indeed an animal-based product. Soy milk, almond milk. Plant-based beef. Plant-based chicken. Vegan bacon. And plant (no pun intended!) the thought - VEGAN LEATHER.
Since 2013, as a result of pressure from the dairy sector, EU regulations have stated that designations like milk, butter, cheese, cream and yogurt can only be used to market products derived from animal milk. The response of a number of plant milk companies in the EU was to create a word including ‘mylk’, ‘m*lk’ and ‘malk’ .
Now with the increasing popularity of plant-based meats, those vegan products are under scrutiny in some jurisdictions for whether products which are manufactured from plants and not animals should be permitted to be described as 'meat'. A prominent plant-based meat manufacturer Beyond Meat has the line 'HOW WE MAKE MEAT FROM PLANTS' and describes is products as 'beyond' burgers, sausages, beef, meatballs. Australian expanding plant-based manufacturer Fable offers 'braised beef' which is also cooked into 'stroganoff', 'rogan josh' and 'chilli con carne'.
As predicated by the 'champagne' excursion, will the use of meat and dairy industry terms in conjunction with new plant-based products attract regulatory responses around the globe because they are not true descriptors of the products and could mislead and deceive consumers?
I make no presumption to answer those questions but in the context of James&Co I raise that it is also now relevant in the context of fabrics.
In Italy in October 2020 legislation came into force that forbids the use of the word 'leather' in any way to describe materials not derived from the remains of animals - including its use in conjunction with other terms such as eco-leather, vegan leather, faux leather and other synthetic fabrics.
It is interesting to see how this law shows applicability to a fabric made in Italy from which James&Co is able to make its sustainable vegan leather outerwear.
The fabric is VEGEA fabric. Its manufacturer describes VEGEA as a 'vegan coated fabric' with its name coming from the combination of VEG (Vegan) and GEA (Mother Earth). And as a plant-based alternative material to synthetic oil-based non-renewable fossil-fuel based fabrics (traditional PU and PVC) and animal-derived ones (real leather). That's the sustainable vegan fabric from what James&Co manufactures.
The fabric is uniquely developed by a process for converting wine waste known as grape marc - that is grape skins, stalks and seeds discarded during wine production - into a textile.
As with cactus vegan leather, VEGEA has a coating of WBPU to give it the leather look and texture so it is not yet fully biodegradable.
You will see looking at the website that the word 'leather' or associated words like 'vegan leather' do not appear in the brand's title or any of its texts which presumably is required to comply with the law in Italy.
This is an important development for all stakeholders in the vegan leather fabric and products markets to watch as moves continue to push the legislation to other countries.
If the use of the word 'leather' is banned in respect of non-animal based fabrics, will there be a move to brand-based names such as VEGEA or wider consideration of alternative names for synthetic leather? Good for 'mylk' - good for 'lether'? No A = No Animal.