Leather isn’t the only option for shoes: there are many other materials available – whether they be synthetic or natural – that are perfectly suited to making shoes, with all their numerous and complex operations.

Synthetic materials for shoes

When it comes to synthetic materials for creating uppers, technology has taken huge strides to offer high performance and finishes that are increasingly in line with fashion trends, including prints, surfaces, effects (laminated, glitter, embossed, etc.), colours and tones: in other words, materials that look very similar to leather.  

Polyurethane forms the base of many products, such as microfibres and faux furs. PVC, including vinyl, has been on trend for the past two seasons to create either a naked look, when transparent, or a glossy varnished look. This plastic came into vogue in the 1960s with creations by Paco Rabanne and Courrèges.


JF London FW 19/20

TR (thermoplastic rubbers), PVC (polyvinyl chloride), TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane), EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate), or a combination of these, are alternatives to leather soles.

Non-synthetic alternatives to leather

As consumers and the fashion industry become increasingly ecologically minded, research is being done to create leather alternatives from food waste. For example, apple skins and cores combined with a water-based glue and cotton support have created a biodegradable material.
Grape skins usually discarded during wine production and the pulp left over from pressed oranges have also been used. And that’s not all: materials are being created from recycled PET bottles recovered from the sea and yarns made from castor oil to create a light, breathable fabric.

Click on the following link to take a more in-depth look at case studies and the applications of these materials in the footwear sector.