We’ve seen the future of leather and it doesn’t involve cows. Take Rombaut, for instance. Eschewing animal hide, the experimental Parisian label harnesses plant-based alternatives such as fig tree bark from Uganda, tapa from the South Pacific, wild Amazonian rubber, coconut fiber, and even potato starch. For fall, Rombaut is rolling out a line of unisex sneakers made with Piñatex, a robust yet pliable non-woven textile from the Philippines that is being hailed by many, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, as a cruelty-free alternative to leather. Engineered from the fibers of discarded pineapple leaves, Piñatex is both biodegradable and compostable. And, because it’s derived from a byproduct of fruit harvesting, it requires little in the way of additional land, water, or fertilizers.
“The material is very similar to leather,” Rombaut founder Mats Rombaut, a longtime vegan, told WWD. “It’s easy to work with and also very strong, which makes it durable.”
To play against Piñatex’s wrinkled appearance, Rombaut employed rubber-coated cotton, laser-cut wood, and more conventional synthetic leathers to fill out the rest of the collection, which it dubs a “wearable hybrid of innovative natural materials and manmade technological fabrics.”
The Belgian designer’s yen for minimalist cuts and understated palettes is evident in the designs, which include snakeskin high-tops, faux-fur-embellished loafers, and wedge-soled trainers.
For Rombaut the person, reducing fashion’s footprint isn’t just the core of the Rombaut the brand; it’s its entire reason for being.
“For me, there is no other way. I think we are really pushing the limits of production. If we want to keep making fashion, sustainability is the only way,” he said.