Non-animal “leather” has earned students from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) national recognition. The students have been hard at work in the laboratory since April 2019 to study “vegan leather,” a material that can be made from polyurethane or other recyclable materials. Their recent discoveries on the sustainable faux leather have earned them the International Textile Apparel & Association (ITAA)’s 2020 Paper of Distinction Award in the Sustainability/Social Responsibility track.
Under the guidance of Professor Shu-Hwa Lin, Fashion Design and Merchandising students Savannah Adler, Ailee Anitpapa, Benjamin Revord, Savanna Lendrum and Maddison Zadina learned to grow, dye, dry and evaluate color changes of vegan leather produced in the UH Mānoa textile lab.
“Working on this project required tremendous discipline, commitment and teamwork,” said Adler. “We are so blessed for the opportunity as an undergraduates to work alongside Dr. Lin and learn about alternative textile production. Receiving the Paper of Distinction Award was more than we could ever hope for. We are honored and humbled, and will continue to research sustainable and socially responsible materials for the fashion industry.”
During the almost two-year process, the team found that, compared to animal leather, vegan leather requires a miniscule amount of water to produce. All materials can be found in tropical climates, and the circular production model is well suited for Hawaiʻi’s limited (and high-cost) land and resources. Even more, a strength test indicates that vegan leather has the potential for multiple commercial applications in the fashion industry.
The students will present their project and be recognized at ITAA’s 2020 Annual Conference held November 18–20.