What are the fabrics used for tailoring James&Co outerwear?

What are James&Co products made from?

James&Co womens outerwear is tailored in fabrics which are both sustainable and cruelty-free vegan. 2018 was a significant year when we moved from chemicals-based vegan leather to water-based fabric and introduced Pinatex pineapple leaf leather look fabric. 

Eco friendly alternative to leather  - polyurethane or PU

When we started business in 2012, the only alternative to real leather for womens jackets and coats was 100% synthetic leather generically referred to as polyurethane or ‘PU’. The polyurethane vegan leather fabric is very similar in appearance and texture to natural leather but it does not contain any animal products. While it is preferable to real leather, and its manufacture needs to comply with standards of the EU and other countries, polyurethane is not yet a fabric that can can be called sustainable or eco-friendly.

The PU fabric for faux/vegan leather is made by the coating a synthetic base fabric (such as polyester or nylon) with a chemical compound paste and then drying it.  The polyurethane coating is applied to a single side of the base fabric and it makes the fabric water resistant, light weight and flexible.

In some sense, the more correct term is ‘PU coated fabric’ because the actual fabric component is the underlying synthetic polyester or nylon.

However, it is not an environmentally friendly paste or process. This is mainly because the coating paste has very high levels of the toxic solvent DMF (dimethyl formamide). When emitted during traditional PU processing, the solvent eventually becomes greenhouse gas. 

Fortunately since 2012 there have been technological innovations leading to the development of alternative leather fabrics eliminating DMF and which are sustainable and eco-friendly.  One of these innovations is water-based PU (WBPU) and it is the fabric which James&Co has switched to. 

Vegan leather fabric made without chemicals - 'eco friendly alternative leather'

In 2018 James&Co was introduced to an artificial leather fabric that was developed switching from DMF-based polyurethane production to a water-based process (WBPU). In WBPU, water is the medium used to create foamed polyurethane dispersions as the coating material for the underlying fabric, so it's eco-friendly and harmless to the human body. 

The WBPU coating material is environmentally-friendly. It does not contain any toxic chemicals and is non-flammable.

The fabric is both soft and breathable, and suitable for lightweight products such as womens outerwear.

According to our manufacturer of the new fabrics which is a China technology textile company 'Our product uses essentially different materials & technology from traditional PU on market now, regarding the origin of the process. It simulates the interior structure of real leather by foaming technology and has a very good air permeability with no need to punch by laser, and very soft touch feeling. Therefore, it’s proved soft enough to be used in jackets, coats etc'.

We are the first business to buy this eco friendly alternative leather fabric for apparel and the jackets made with it are indeed soft and look great.  We'll be increasing our range. 

Pinatex pineapple leaf leather

James&Co has been following the development of the alternative fabric to leather which is made from pineapple leaves and known as Pinatex.   As with the eco vegan leather, the first applications were for products requiring thicker fabrics - furniture, shoes, bags. 

As it developed to become adaptable to womens outerwear, we were ready to lead.  And 2018, the Pinatex business approved James&Co as a customer for purchasing their fabrics.

Piñatex is woven from the long fibres in pineapple leaves, the byproduct of the pineapple industry, which are traditionally discarded or burned. It was developed by a Spanish woman, Carmen Hijosa, as an alternative textile to leather that was not harmful to the environment. It took her 8 years to develop the fabric and was launched commercially in 2015 through the company Ananas Anam

The fibres in the leaves are fine, strong and flexible. They are harvested and stripped by pineapple farmers in the Philippines. In addition to creating employment income for the farming communities at the harvesting stage, additional economic value is added for the communities by turning the leftover leaf biomass into a natural fertiliser or biofuel.  

The fibres are turned into a mesh and finished into Pinatex in Spain. 

The process and fabric are completely sustainable:

  • No additional environmental resources required for raw material
  • No chemicals on the Cradle2cradle list of banned substances are used in production
  • Closed loop production – residual leaf biomass is used as natural fertilizer/biofuel
  • Non-woven mesh is biodegradable

To make one square metre of Piñatex takes 460 leaves.  Global pineapple production topped 25 million tonnes in 2016 so there is plenty of raw material available.

Read more about Pinatex. 

Vegan velvet 

Velvet is a luxurious fabric that never goes out of fashion. The original fabric comprised a number of components including silk.  James&Co is a Peta-approved Vegan brand, so silk is an animal product that has no place in our apparel.  The velvet we use is sourced by our manufacturer in Pakistan and is 100% synthetic. No silk. Still luxurious.

Organic canvas, cotton, linen

We currently have 2 biker jackets tailored in canvas with eco sustainable leather trim.  Organic cotton and linen styles will be on the radar soon.

Recycled lining

All linings of jackets will from now be recycled polyester.

Non-woven packaging

Since starting in 2012, our outerwear has been packaged in a non-woven bag.  To avoid having to place the products in plastic to meet the requirements of warehouses, our manufacturer also acts as our storage agent and despatches the products in the non-woven bag. 

Wax-wash finishing

A James&Co eco leather product can be tailored in the natural water-based eco-friendly fabric. Or it can have a gentle wax-wash finishing applied. Wax-wash is an ethical process with no animal products involved. The products are washed and dried, then wax is applied and the product is ironed.