The leather industry is in a downward spiral, says financial magazine Bloomberg as consumers are opting for sustainable vegan alternatives. Bloomberg dubbed today’s mainstream consumerism “vegan sensibility.”
“Over the next decade, people will ditch ‘dead-cow wallets’ as commerce moves to more mobile and digital payments,” Bloomberg reported. Dan Schulman, CEO of PayPal Holdings Inc., told analysts last month that the “[dead cow wallets] will be a thing of the past.”
Everything from cars, to shoes, furniture, and bags are going cruelty-free. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, teased that the company’s forthcoming Model Y sports utility vehicle may be leather-free as there is a large demand for vegan cars. The request makes sense; a zero-emissions car company is attracting a conscious consumer who may be well-informed about the unsustainable practices of raising cows and the environmental damage the leather tanning process causes.
“Leather items that remain in vogue contain less. Little ankle booties with synthetic cutouts have replaced knee-high leather boots, and generously-sized leather bags have made way for smaller purses, like clutches,” added Bloomberg. A top designer also recently hailed vegan leather as superior to its animal predecessor material.
Plastic-based faux leather seems to be on the way out, too, as the plastic pollution epidemic gains alarming momentum. “[Consumers are] not necessarily seeking out synthetics,” Jocelyn Thornton, senior vice president of creative services at the retail and fashion advisory firm Doneger Group, told Bloomberg. “They’re just looking for things that are better for the environment, better for the future.”
Millenials and Gen Z are “gravitating to non-leather products from companies with a compelling feel-good story about how they’re made,” said Thornton.
Stephen Sothmann, president of the U.S. Hide, Skin & Leather Association, commented on the decline in leather sales in 2014. Farmers dropped their herds to the smallest size in 60 years and according to Sothmann, “[t]he industry has struggled to recover. We haven’t regained market share.”
In addition to leather seeing plummeting demand, other animal products are also becoming less sought-after. Countries, brands, and celebrities are forgoing fur in favor of more compassionate vegan fur-style garments. And some major retailers recently ditched mohair – a fabric derived from angora goats.