Kering invests in real leather from the lab – is this the future?

Luxury fashion group Kering has teamed up with VitroLabs - a biotech start-up from California - to develop leather alternatives

Vitrolabls
Source & Copyright by Vitrolabs

Author: Sidney Kadziolka

  • Kering Group promotes cell-cultured animal leather from the laboratory
  • VitroLabs has raised $46 million in funding from investors
  • A real alternative for industry and trade

Has been working since 2018 Kering,, the group includes brands such as Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, collaborated in confidence with VitroLabs on the product development of the lab-grown leather. Not only does he promote his own commitment to environmentally conscious initiatives through his investments in the start-up. Rather, this is a further step in its sustainable strategy to achieve the goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 for the company Kering.

VitroLabs has now raised over $46 million in investment funds. Accordingly, it is the youngest company to use investor funds to develop alternative materials to develop products that mimic animal products. First, they developed an appealing alternative to "vegan" leather, which is often made of plastic, which is not particularly environmentally friendly and of high quality.

Leather from animal stem cells, the green alternative from the laboratory?

Thanks to the lab grown leather you get genuine leather with all its benefits, including durability and suppleness, without animal killing. The leather is made from cells biopsied from a live cow. This is a harmless and painless procedure.

The removed cell can then grow into animal skin in a special bioreactor. This process only takes a few weeks. In the further process, the hide goes through a simplified version of the same tanning and finishing process as conventional leather. Another advantage is that the VitroLabs leather does not contain excess fat or hair that needs to be removed.

At this stage, Kering was proactively involved to ensure the quality and specification matched fashion demands. The company has experience and knowledge of the supply chains shared and tested different tanning and finishing processes together.

But is genuine lab-grown leather a product that customers will actually buy?

Currently, the leather alternative development sector is experiencing explosive growth as brands demand more and more sustainable options. Above all, VitroLab has set an innovative milestone with its first production of "real" leather, in contrast to a realistic leather-like material. Because compared to new materials such as pineapple or cactus leather, the processing is not complicated here. The production also protects agriculture and significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions without the use of animals.

Given the size of the leather market, genuine leather remains dominant, particularly in the luxury segment. An estimated 28 billion square meters of leather are produced annually. But fashion brands are also increasingly recognizing the damage and risks associated with leather production. Being able to source a more sustainable genuine leather could be crucial for the industry.

 “There has been an explosion of companies developing alternative materials to leather. VitroLab's cultured animal leather preserves the biological properties of the material while eliminating the environmentally harmful and unethical aspects of conventional leather."

CEO and co-founder of VitroLabs Ingvar Helgason

The pilot, which is expected to go live next year, will be able to produce enough product for brand partners to launch. However, no details about potential product launches have been revealed to date. Likewise, no details can be given about the environmental impact of the process, but there should be a life cycle analysis. So it remains exciting to see whether leather grown in the laboratory will replace the other more environmentally harmful alternatives as well as real leather and gain a foothold in the market in the future.

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