This vegan leather by Le Qara, made from microorganisms, is the latest innovation in sustainable fashion
By Chere Di Boscio
Not long ago, I decided to move to the beautiful nation of Peru. One of the many reasons for doing so was that it seemed that with its ban on genetically modified foods and emphasis on spirituality, Peru would be the ideal place for more sustainable living.
I’ve not been disappointed. Not only am I surrounded by a plethora of 100% natural alpaca, pima cotton and vicuña fashion brands, but there are some innovators on the vegan fashion scene here, and they just won the H&M Foundation’s Global Change Award.
Le Qara is the project founded by three Peruvian women: Jacqueline Cruz, Isemar Cruz and María Pía Soto. Focused on creating eco-friendly vegan leather, Le Qara was selected as one of five winning initiatives of the Global Change Award.
The women have become the first Latin Americans to receive this honour, but as Jacqueline Cruz told El Comercio newspaper, this is the trio’s second time entering the competition.
“Since we didn’t win last year, we looked for all the options to be able to improve,” she said. “We focused on the client, on what she wanted and needed: different textures, thickness, and a great colour palette.”
The result is an ecological leather called ‘qara,’ which means ‘leather’ in Quechua, one of the indigenous languages of the Andes. The prototype handbag created by the group feels like real leather, looks like real leather, and is 100% biodegradable, thanks to the fact that it’s made from live microorganisms that feed on waste fruit and plants.
There are plenty of vegan substitutes for leather, from fruit based materials to mushrooms and even cacti. But unlike most leather alternatives, this innovative material is completely flexible, and imitate any texture, from lambskin to snakeskin. It easily holds colour, and once the fabric reaches the end of its life, it can be easily broken down by composting it.
It takes an average of between 30 to 70 days to ‘grow’ in the laboratory, and it was tested and certified in San Francisco, whilst the KTH Royal Institute of Technology of Stockholm is committed to supporting the women in securing the patent of the vegan-friendly product worldwide.
About the Global Change Award
Each year, a panel of international experts helps to select five sustainable fashion innovations. A million Euros are distributed among the participants so that they can develop their eco-fashion projects further. The other winners this year included
The Loop Scoop by circular.fashion, a digital system from Germany aiming to close the loop on every garment from design to wear to recycling; Sane Membrane by dimpora: A biodegradable and mineral-based membrane for outdoor wear from Switzerland; Sustainable Stingby Green Nettle Textile, which are sustainable fashion fibers providing opportunities for farmers in Kenya to boost their livelihoods, and Clothes that Grow by Petit Pli, which creates outfits that expand with children’s growth, while reducing environmental impact.
But of course, I’m super proud of the Le Qara trio, since they’re the first ever Latinas to win the prize, and since their innovation will help to put Peru on the sustainable fashion scene even more firmly.
“Thanks to this award, we will implement larger samples and reach international customers. The first step is to create our pilot production plant in Peru,”said Soto.
“Having this validation is something incredible. Not only are we making a beautiful design, but we are helping to change the world. We are the first Latin American group that has ever won. I can not stop saying ‘wow’!” gushed Cruz to El Comercio.
Personally, I’ve been blown away by the innovation – and traditions – of the Peruvian eco-fashion market, and I can’t wait to see how Le Qara grows!
For more information on sustainable Peruvian fashion, click here.
All images: H&M