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Global Change Award is an innovation challenge initiated by H&M Foundation, aiming to make fashion circular.
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Grape Leather

Not only does animal leather production require the lives of millions of animals annually, it also affects the environment by using acids, heavy metals and lots of water for tanning. Production of synthetic leather alternatives might save the lives of animals, but generates pollution with synthetic polymers, plasticizers and solvents. Strangely enough, a glass of wine might be the solution.

Awarded: €300,000 Year: 2017 Company: Vegea

The innovation in a nutshell

Using leftovers from winemaking to create fully vegetal leather.

Let us explain

Architect Gianpiero Tessitore was working on his furniture designs when he realized that the fashion industry still can’t offer a truly green alternative to animal and synthetic leather. Together with industrial chemist Francesco Merlino, he embarked on a mission to find one.

After three years of research they discovered that grape skins, stalks and seeds discarded during wine production are is ideal for making 100% vegetal leather. No toxic solvents, heavy metals or dangerous substances are needed in the production process.

Since winning the award

After winning the Global Change Award, the team worked on their first prototypes for dresses, handbags and shoes made of grape leather. They won the Horizon 2020, the biggest EU research and innovation program ever and the European Parliament recognized Vegea as one of the best European start-ups of the new millennium.

Vegea is still investing in research and development to further improve the material and make it compatible not only with fashion and packaging but also for the furniture and car industry. In July 2019 it was announced that Bentley had chosen Vegea for the interiors of their new car model.

Fashion brand & Other Stories made a clutch and a pair of sandals of Vegea leather for Bandana Tewari to wear on the red carpet of the award ceremony of the Global Change Award. In 2020, & Other Stories made a similar version of the Vegea heeled sandal available to their customers.

Team members: Rosa Rossella Longobardo, Gianpiero Tessitore, Francesco Merlino and Valentina Longobardo
Country: Italy
Company: Vegea

“Thanks to the economic grant, the networking and media opportunities provided by the Global Change Award, we built credibility that allowed us to initiate important partnerships and collaborations in the industry, and finally industrialize a first version of the material.”
Gianpiero Tessitore