As with several new material companies in Europe, Hannah Michaud was inspired after taking a course on biomimicry in 2016. She wanted to create a material using ingredients from food production waste. Apple waste from cider and juice production lends the whole concept a round story where the waste can be used for a higher value. She met Mikael Eydt, CEO and Co-Founder in 2017 and they are now working together with a team of scientists to supply the fashion industry with a sustainable alternative. Their product is a leather-like material that they hope can become the “game changer” of the leather industry. In 2020, the company changed its name from The Apple Girl to Beyond Leather Materials.
The apple material looks to mimic leather and can be made in 1mm thickness with a variety of textures and colors. It can be sewn and laser cut. To increase durability, the product is currently coated with a recycled fossil fuel-derived polymer. The company plans to continue developing a more sustainable coating as well as a means to separate the coating from the biodegradable apple material in a circular end-of-life solution.
Apple pulp left behind in the cider pressing process is the main ingredient (70%) of this leather-like material. The backing is a GOTS certified organic cotton. The mechanical/chemical production process can be used to make material with many kinds of fruit pulp. The material is dyed throughout and texture can be added before coating. Without the coating, this apple leather is completely biodegradable. Using a petroleum-based coating allows for increased durability and range of application.
According to the description of this material’s process, it appears that apple leather is more sustainable than bovine leather and petroleum-based alternatives in a number of areas, including water, energy, and land use, even considering the petroleum-based coating. Apple leather seems much more favorable in terms of chemical use and animal welfare.
The Apple Girl fulfilled its first order to create wristbands for the Copenhagen Cider Festival in August 2016. The material works best in small leather goods and accessories like notebooks, business card holders, keychains, and small bags.
The company is taking orders online for sample boxes containing 4x sheets (A5) of apple leather in 4 different varieties. Expected delivery time is 3 months. They offer 60x60cm size prototyping pieces to order as well. The A5 samples are not suitable for making products because of their size, but show current status of development.