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Like Leather

All week in Yksi by Yksi Expo
This event is open for the public.

From fish leather to slippers made from palm leaves, and from leathery accessories of animal entrails and bladders to a notebook with a cover made from coffee grounds. Designers think of all kinds of sustainable alternatives for leather. Or develop ways and methods to give leather a longer life or lifecycle. Yksi Expo shows fifteen surprising examples.


Leather is a beautiful material, but its production has a downside. How are the animals kept and treated? Tanning has become less polluting over time, but many chemicals are still being used. And it costs a lot of water.

Circular economy

The Like Leather exhibition shows a number of products, concepts and production methods developed by designers looking for alternatives to leather. Mostly from the desire to contribute to a circular economy and a sustainable world.

Some of them start with a totally different source - the skin of fish for example, or the entrails and bladders of sheep, pigs and cows. Materials that usually end up with the waste. There are also designers who use vegetable fibers such as the leaves of a palm tree. And even from coffee grounds you can make a cover for a notebook. Other examples show designers trying to extend the life span of leather or to recycle leather goods.

Atelier La Gadoue - Tchouc

Audrey Werthle and Eloïse Maës, graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven, together form atelier La Gadoue in Brussels. The bag collection Tchouc is the result of their research into natural rubber coating on linen canvas. This new composite material offers a vegetable alternative to leather. It is waterproof, sufficiently strong, functional and easy to handle.

Studio Gutedort - Hidden Beauty/Inner Skins

When traveling in South America, Eva Schlechte saw animal entrails at a market. Together with Jennifer Here, with whom she forms Studio Gutedort, she went to work with intestines, bladders and other 'inner skins' of sheep, pigs and cows. The products and accessories have a beautiful, leathery look and show that there is also beauty in what we regard as animal waste. If you look at it differently.

Henri Canivez – Leather trays

Henri Canivez, a graduate of the Design Academy Eindhoven, did not apply leather as a two-dimensional surface, as usual, but as a three-dimensional material for a number of functional objects. The result is an intriguing series of trays, for example to store coins, keys, pens or other small objects. The leather is actually industrial waste from a factory that makes luxury goods.

Jolijn Pasmans – Hide

In the Hide project, Jolijn Pasmans applied techniques from her textile background to leather, tanned without the use of chemicals. As a result, it retains the characteristics and appearance of a 'living' material. The leather changes colors by the sunlight and deforms through moisture, characteristics that Pasmans uses when applying structures to the surface. Some samples even look like a new, non-leathery material.

Julia Thomann – Breccia

Julia Thomann, graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2017, designed the Breccia leather collection, which is distinguished by a kind of craquelure, the effect of a cracked layer of paint or varnish. With the help and use of the Open Circle Lab at Ecco Leather, she developed a special process for this. Through reflections of the light, the metallic veins look different each time, giving the leather an ever-changing appearance.

Mies Loogman - Wild Leather

Every year, thousands of wild boars are shot in the Netherlands for safety reasons. The meat is eaten, but the skins are discarded. Mies Loogman, who graduated from Design Academy Eindhoven in 2017, has developed various tanning methods to use these skins. Wild Leather was developed in collaboration with Ecco Leather, Dongen.

Studio Nienke Hoogvliet - Re-Sea-Me

Nienke Hoogvliet wants to make people aware of the pollution of the sea and wants to show that there are possibilities for sustainable use of products from the same sea. Using old handicraft techniques, she tanned fish skin, without chemicals, and designed a stool with fish leather to show the possibilities of this strong, durable and beautiful material.

reWrap - Tree Bag

The young Dutch brand reWrap stands for stylish products made of natural materials that are completely biodegradable. Fully sustainable design according to the cradle to cradle principle is combined with quality, beauty and elegance. One of the products is the Tree Bag, made entirely from tree materials. The bag can end up on the compost heap to be demolished there.

Tjeerd Veenhoven – Palm Leather

Tjeerd Veenhoven developed a method to make a kind of leather from the Areca or Betel palm. He let the strong, stiff leaves soak for a few days in a completely organic mix, resulting in a soft and flexible material that can be processed well. In collaboration with Tjeerd Veenhoven, the O'Neil brand brought slippers from this palm laminate to the market two years ago.

NYVIDD – Fish Leather

The ancient Egyptians, peoples in Siberia, Alaska, Canada and Lapland, were already making full use of fish leather for clothing, footwear and upholstery of objects. NYVIDD, one of the partners of Yksi Expo, not only brings fish leather from Iceland onto the market, but also wants to stimulate the use of this beautiful, natural material, both for designers and producers as well as consumers. NYVIDD has set up the Fish Leather Platform for this purpose.

Notebook - Coffee Based

Every year an estimated 120-150 million kilos of coffee grounds remain in the Netherlands, a large proportion of which is incinerated. Coffee Based, based in BlueCity in Rotterdam, wants to make bio-based products from coffee, for example in collaboration with Maas (vending machines). The first product is a notebook with a cover made from the coffee waste of 1 cup of coffee.

Bacteria Girls TU/e – Growing Patterns

A group of students from Industrial Design (Eindhoven University of Technology, TU/e) investigates the possibilities to create patterns when dyeing silk, cotton and fish leather. This dyeing is done with natural bacteria dyes. These are widely available and are easy to reproduce. This method of painting is done without chemicals and with only a small amount of water.

Shahar Livne - The Meat Factory

When an animal is being industrially slaughtered, its blood is being drained. Later, industrial food additives are added to the meat to make it attractive again in terms of texture, colour, aroma and taste. Shahar Livne turned this around and designed a kind of imitation leather made of bioplastics based on food additives, with blood as a colouring agent. In this way she wants to emphasize the contradictions in our thinking about food and food production.

Sarmite Polakova – PINEskins

The pine tree is the most abundant tree in the Northern Hemisphere. Industrially it is valued for mostly for its cheap wood while historically all parts of the tree served a function.
It seems that the industrial approach today has made forests into factories delivering wood as its final product. By acknowledging these similarities one can see how the bark becomes a link between trees as living organisms and wood – as the end product.
The soft material treated with natural ingredients has leather-like properties and a lifespan of a few years, which this design approach respects. The adjustment of the function to the lifespan challenges the collective consumption habits of today, namely us hoping for long lasting products although we are fully aware of the short lifecycles.

Buxkin - Bekleding voor wanden, vloeren en panelen

Buxkin supplies various coverings for walls, floors and panels, based on recycled materials such as leather and felt. Delivered on a roll, 1.20 m wide. The result is an aesthetically high-quality product with interesting acoustic benefits and available in various colours, perforations and embossments. A full substitute for real leather.

Billy van Katwijk - Venti

Cow stomachs are usually thrown out or – at best – processed into dog food. Billie van Katwijk studied the richness of textures and specific properties in each of the four parts of a cow’s stomach and developed a process for turning bovine gut into a material that can be used to make bags and accessories. Through a labor-intensive tanning process, she arrived at a leather collection with a unique aesthetic. Ventri reveals how slaughterhouse remnants can become luxurious design.

Julica Morlok – Transforming leather

Julia Thomann, graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2017, designed the Breccia leather collection, which is distinguished by a kind of craquelure, the effect of a cracked layer of paint or varnish. With the help and use of the Open Circle Lab at Ecco Leather, she developed a special process for this. Through reflections of the light, the metallic veins look different each time, giving the leather an ever-changing appearance.

Julie van den Boorn - Compoleather

Julie van den Boom shredded used leather goods, mixed it with water and pressed the pulp into molds to dry. The new material, which she called Compoleather, appeared to attach without extra binder and is therefore still 100% natural. The smell is also that of leather. Multiple applications are possible, such as car interiors.

Yksi Connect connects designers with the industry, provides inspiration, gives directions and resolves issues. Leonne Cuppen was among the founding fathers of the Dutch Design Week and the Designhuis (House of Design) in Eindhoven. She curates, designs and realizes exhibitions that can be seen in other places in the world, from Beijing to Barcelona and from Moscow to Madrid.

The exhibition 'Like Leather, alternatives to leather' is curated by Leonne Cuppen (Yksi Connect), Daria Biryukova (Studio Mixtura) and Sabine Silaraja (No Waste).

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