The materials developer formerly known as ELeather has a new name and $18 million in fresh growth funding from some of the world’s fanciest brands.
The 15-year-old company is based in Peterborough, UK, and has worked with brands such as Nike and Delta. The upcycler intends to use the new funds to expand “in the fashion and luxury footwear categories,” Gen Phoenix said in a statement. The company says it has diverted more than 8,000 tonnes of scrap leather from landfills to date.
“Imagine what can happen when waste is no longer wasted,” says Gen Phoenix in an ambitious post on its new website. The upcycler tells TechCrunch that its “raw material comes directly from tanneries where around 1/3 of a hide of leather is typically discarded.” Turning scrap leather into a usable leather-like product involves shredding it and “twisting” it “around a high-performance core using only high-pressure water,” the company said.
Gen Phoenix’s “recycled leather” is not made entirely of recycled materials. A company spokesperson told TechCrunch that its products contain “up to 86% recycled content,” including recycled leather and recycled plastic. Yet the company’s end product also contains virgin plastic.
Without sharing a specific timeline, a Gen Phoenix spokesperson said the company aims to “reduce and completely eliminate virgin materials from their products.”
The upcycler also “markets a bio-based coating system and bio-based substitutes for all synthetic materials used in the process,” the spokesperson added. Hopefully, we’ll see Gen Phoenix launch completely virgin materials soon.
Zooming out: Gen Phoenix’s inclusion of plastics is not unusual, even for “sustainable” brands. Fossil fuel materials enter fashion business. Polyester? Nylon? Elastane? All plastic.
Even the rise of recycled plastic fabrics justifies deep skepticism; the resulting synthetic clothing is rarely recycled and the microplastics it releases go virtually everywhere, including the ocean, mountain peaks, the interior of sea creatures and even our own bodies. Dealing with the industry climate and wider environmental consequences means rethinking everything from how we dye fabrics to completely kill “fast mode”.