By Krishna Menon
Co-founders of Phool.co sitting together
Fleather, an innovative initiative taken up by automation engineer Ankit Agarwal, aims at eliminating harmful floral waste and suggesting eco-friendly solutions for producing leather. Fleather was created by Agarwal and other co-founders of Phool.co, a start-up that aims to convert floral waste to sustainable products like degradable incense. Until the discovery of Fleather, Phool.co aimed at converting the floral waste into charcoal-free incense sticks and Florafoam, a biodegradable alternative to Styrofoam.
Fleather was an accidental discovery, as when the IIT Kanpur based research team noticed a white layer forming on the stored flowers, they investigated and realised the properties were like that of leather. The white layer was the microorganisms present on the flowers. The team then studied the samples in a lab, conducted research and produced the ideal conditions in order to harvest Fleather from the flowers.
While traditional leather gets its properties from a protein fibre called collagen, present in animal and human skin, Fleather gets a protein called chitin, secreted by those microorganisms, which makes it similar to leather in its structure.
The Fleather is manufactured by the flower recyclers, who work and help in stopping tonnes of floral waste and harmful chemicals from polluting the Ganga river. Thus, apart from saving the environment and providing sustainable options, Phool.co was also a source of employment for the underprivileged and weaker sections of society.
Ankit Agarwal was rewarded and recognised for developing Fleather by PETA. With Fleather becoming more well-known in the market, it is becoming an example of change and revolution in the world of products made with conventional leather. An added benefit of Fleather is that it can be modified with custom requirements and is much more flexible to work with than leather. The end product is similar to that of ruminant leather. Ironically, Kanpur is also known as the leather city of India. India annually contributes around 12% towards the global production of leather. But this solution could make a drastic change in the future, if commercially successful. Several national and international fashion brands have taken interest in Fleather and are collaborating with the founders to make a line of eco-friendly leather. The brand has also been able to raise 1.4 million dollars for its products through international funding. With such bright advancements taking place, Fleather could be the future of cruelty-free sustainable eco-friendly fabrics.
Sources- Veganfirst.com, Hindustan Times
Edited by Sagarika Satapathy