Plain Tiger Spotlight: Alkeme Atelier

Master craftsmanship in vegan leather

By Renee Fortune

If you had told anyone just a few years ago that designers would be turning pineapples and grapes into textiles, it would probably have been dismissed as ‘gimmicky’. But brands like Alkeme Atelier have made it their mission to turn the tide against waste and pollution in the fashion industry. And yes, that means reimagining everything we’ve ever known about textile production and pushing the limits until – well, there are none. So of course, everything from recycled plastic bottles and bamboo to (yes) grapes and pineapples are transformed into what is fast collectively becoming known as vegan leather.

Alkeme Atelier is a nod to the ancient science of alchemy and the process of transforming and combining the four elements to build something new. It is a brand that ‘walks the talk’, and internalises the principles of sustainability – quite literally. Both the inside and outside of all the handbags you’ll find at Alkeme Atelier are made from textiles that do not harm the planet – textiles that are made from fibers that would otherwise be discarded. 

In this new world, there is absolutely no reason for plastic, leaves, fruit skins and other legacies of ‘throwaway culture’ to be tossed into landfills. That’s the philosophy that has enabled Alkeme Atelier to thrive amidst a sea of fast fashion. 

Anyone scrolling through the Alkeme Atelier catalogue will be struck by the diversity of handbag silhouettes but also their shared inspiration – geometry. Staying true to its motto, “breaking down to rebuild,” the brand’s designers produce shapes that mimic the ancient art of blending substances, processing them; and in the case of true alchemy – turning those substances into gold. 

And utilising fibers like Pinatex (made out of recycled pineapple leaves) is not only about making sure the earth doesn’t pay the price for good fashion. It’s also about supporting local farming communities who harvest the pineapples. The use of pineapple leaves as a by-product requires no additional land, water or fertilizer. It’s really a matter of making use of a substance that was once considered as waste.

Don’t get it twisted – the brand’s founder and head designer, Shelly Varma is not waging a personal crusade against traditional leather. Her goal is simply to provide an alternative that embodies everything the world has come to love about leather - its ruggedness, its durability and its texture. 

Alkeme Atelier has developed relationships with ISO 9001 certified factories. ISO 9001 is the international standard used to measure the ability and capacity of factories to produce quality material. The material factories that the brand works with are also GRS (Global Recycling Standard) certified, meaning that from raw material to finished fabric, the production process is environmentally sound. 

The brand also produces its own innovative and exclusive vegan leather that is lightweight, scratch-resistant and highly durable. Anyone who buys an Alkeme Atelier bag is buying something that is truly one-of-a-kind, and in a world characterised by mass production, it’s a breath of fresh air.