Gucci recently released its first vegan sneaker, made of the plant-based leather alternative Demetra. The luxury fashion brand spent two years developing this vegan leather for its new line of products which are named after the Greek goddess of the harvest Demeter. The new "leather" is sourced from plant-based raw materials, such as viscose and wood pulp, and tanned just like animal products, but manufactured using completely cruelty-free practices.

The Demetra vegan leather will be used in three styles of sneakers in the new line. The brand’s first vegan sneakers will feature the Gucci Basket, Gucci Rhyton, and Gucci New Ace. All the shoes will be available for retail purchase between $702 and $940. The company announced that it will be developing more shoes using the new Demetra product.

“In our 100th anniversary year, Demetra is a new category of material that encapsulates Gucci’s quality and aesthetic standards with our desire to innovate, leveraging our traditional skills and know-how to create for an evolving future," Gucci president and CEO Marco Bizzari told Women’s Wear Daily. “Demetra offers our industry an easily scalable, alternative choice and a more sustainable material that also answers the need of animal-free solutions.”

Gucci’s vegan leather will launch the brand into the sustainable fashion market. Although somewhat late to the plant-based shift, Gucci’s Demetra hopes to chain the fashion industry and the materials used in products. The brand plans to license the vegan leather to other companies owned by Kering, its parent company, by 2022. Kering owns fashion giants Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, and Saint Laurent, meaning next year these brands will likely begin using Demetra.

Kering is also working with Bolt Threads – a startup responsible for a mushroom-based vegan leather – alongside a coalition of fashion companies to begin incorporating the mushroom leather into its products. The parent company is also working alongside Adidas, Stella McCartney, and Lululemon with another mushroom-derived leather company Mylo that using mycelium to create its material.

The mushroom-derived leather companies Mylo and Bolt Threads are joined by several other start-ups and tech companies that aim to replace animal leather on the fashion market. There are many other vegan alternatives such as Desserto’s cactus-based leather, Pinatex’s pineapple-based leather, and Apple Skin’s apple-based leather. The innovation continues to grow as more companies realize the potential of plant-based fashion material for a rapidly changing fashion industry.

Earlier this year, fashion company H&M teamed up with Good News to launch a range of completely vegan sneakers using bananas. The company is using Banatex, a leather-like material sourced from banana fibers. As vegan leather becomes entwined with every layer of the fashion market, plant-based leather alternatives will become more popular and widespread, changing the general materials for the fashion industry.

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