- story by MaterialDistrict
Palmleather is a material innovation by Dutch designer Tjeerd Veenhoven that makes use of leaves from the Areca Betel Nut Palm. This palm variety grows throughout some of India’s poorest regions and sheds over 80 million square meters of leaves each year. While these leaves are an incredible material resource, they are unfortunately rarely used – partly because they become very dry and brittle in their raw state. Veenhoven however has developed a biological solution for softening these palm leaves, resulting in a plant-based material that is flexible and soft, with the feel of leather.
Offering a viable alternative to animal-based leathers, palmleather can be produced with far less pollution than other leathers. Products developed by the studio include bags, shoes, book covers and Palmetti, a fully biodegradable slipper for the hospitality industry. The latest contribution are the Palmleather Filigree Rugs, a novel way of using these leaves in carpets and rugs for any living space.
In addition to its ecological benefits, palmleather also offers considerable local benefit. Veenhoven started up a social business in India and Dominican Republic with local artisans. With the softened leaves, the artisans produce products for local and international markets as part of a business model that helps to pull them from the ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’.