What Is Apple Leather and Why Is It in My Shoes?
A unique bio-based material is showing up in footwear and bags, including a new Ethical Living line from Moral Code
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What the heck is apple leather? That was the first question I had when pursuing the Ethical Living lineup from Moral Code, a “consciously designed, carefully crafted” leather goods brand. The EL releases, including the York and Fuji sneakers, were rolled out last fall and have continued on to this spring (the Ash slip-ons are new) — the footwear and bags here feature not only this mysterious apple component but other vegan leather options.
“Apple leather is a vegan alternative produced from waste by-products of the apple juice and jam industries,” explains Zaid Malack, CEO of Moral Code and Milwaukee Boot Company. “It’s more sustainable than other vegan leathers, which are 100% PU (plastic). Peels and fiber from the fruit are blended and treated to create an innovative material that is eco-friendly and durable and effortlessly replicates the look and feel of genuine leather.”
According to the site AppleLeather.com (which is partially under construction), apple leather or AppleSkin is created in the following way: “First, the waste product consisting of the peel, body and fibers of the apple is obtained and the drying process is carried out. The dried product is mixed with polyurethane and laminated on recycled cotton and polyester fabric. Production is carried out according to the density and thickness of the final product.” The material was developed by Frumat and is made by Mabel, an Italian manufacturer, and was first made into bags in 2019.
So, it’s a better option for the world. But how does it hold up in a shoe? While it’s certainly versatile — it’s being used in footwear, bags, furniture and even clothes — and apparently fairly easy to work with, there are some drawbacks: It won’t develop a leather-like patina over time (admittedly, just like any other vegan leather), for example.
On the other hand, apple leather and other vegan options can be durable “if it’s high quality,” as Malack tells us. “And cracking and peeling, unlike some other vegan leathers, is not a major concern.” Plus, it’s breathable and highly water-resistant.
Moral Code, which also works with hemp and other recycled materials, actually works with several types of alternative leathers. Per Malack, those include:
- Olivenleder, or real leather tanned using olive leaves (so it’s chrome and toxin-free)
- Vegetable tanned leather
- Chrome-free leather
- Upcycled leather, leather scraps stitched together to create shoe uppers, therefore repurposing something that would have otherwise ended up in landfills
While not on the list, there’s a multitude of other vegan leathers available from like-minded eco-conscious brands, including grape leather, corn leather, pineapple leather and mushroom leather.
Below, a few Moral Code footwear options and some of the interesting new leathers, apple or otherwise, that they’re utilizing.
Fuji Men’s Vegan High Top Sneaker
Available in black/red and white-multi colors, this high-top is constructed from vegan apple leather (including in the footbed).
Ash Slip-On Sneaker
A surf-inspired slip-on (in gray or khaki) that’s made with both hemp and vegan apple leather, along with a cotton and man-made lining and rubber outsole.
York’s Men’s Low Top Sneaker
Like the Funi, this sneaker is available in black/red and white-multi and crafted from vegan apple leather, but offers a low-top profile.
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