Businesses around the globe have heard the consumer call for sustainable fashion products. The fashion industry as a whole has earned a notably bad rep for wasteful and dirty manufacturing. Few rank higher than the leather industry, with complaints ranging from animal cruelty to toxic chemical waste. Bucha Bio is a company pushing the science envelope in ways that circumvent animals, with an innovative leather alternative that offers endless potential across the fashion industry.

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Biomaterial manufacturing is the primary order of business at Bucha. The newest proprietary process uses plant-based treatments for a sustainable leather alternative that can be used for shoes, clothing, accessories and more. As Bucha introduces the material to the market, it has partnered with independent artists and existing manufacturers to incorporate the product into a designer women’s top as well as a pair of sneakers by Frecustoms, a London-based custom designer that requested the materials.

Related: Miomojo presents luxurious plant-based leather bags

“Our team of scientists and designers are incredibly devoted to this mission, and we’re proud to finally be able to release the first of many biomaterial-based applications,” said Zimri Hinshaw, founder and CEO of Bucha Bio. “We’re collaborating closely with major brands and prototyping products from footwear to luxury automotive interiors. Commercial industries will evolve beyond exclusively leather-based products in the next 25 years due to overwhelming consumer demand and we’re at the forefront of supporting brands as they shift towards more sustainable models.”

A person in a halter top, standing in a room full of plants.

While the consumer sees the result, the work behind the material takes place in the lab, where the Bucha team has reduced the time needed to organically grow biomaterials at scale from months to weeks. Scaling has been a bit of an ankle weight in the leather alternative industry, where new processes are being developed at a record rate — many of which fail to reach commercial scale. 

A person in a halter top, standing on the corner of a city street.

In addition to nailing down a solution to commercializing bacterial nanocellulose for material applications, the company has done it while maintaining vibrant colors in a durable and flexible product. In the case of the Frecustoms shoes, the color is achieved through all-natural, algae-based coloring. This initial release of the bio-based faux leather exemplifies how the material produces no waste while minimizing water use and pollution. Additionally, it replaces acrylics, plastics and chemical-based paints. 

A pair of dark teal sneakers against an abstract wood background.

“Sustainability and planetary health is never going to be achieved by waiting for the status quo to magically change,” said Sean O’Sullivan, Managing General Partner at SOSV, who recognized Bucha through their IndieBio program. “The challenge of our time is finding action-oriented people that tackle deep-tech problems with science. The Bucha Bio team has created new biomanufacturing processes in practical and productive ways, and achieved remarkable progress in a short time at IndieBio.”

+ Bucha

Images via Bucha and Frecustoms