Monday, December 3, 2012

Palm leather products: Designed to change the world

By Anuradha K R
Photography: Courtesy the designer

Here is a product that surpasses socially relevant design to emerge a victor in the economic growth, sustainability, and rural empowerment sectors…

Necessity is the mother of invention and the necessity to develop alternatives for plastics and rubbers has never been greater than it is today. The discovery of one such alternative gave Tjeerd Veenhoven, a product designer from Holland, the “Eureka moment” of his life, with palm leather emerging as a viable alternative not just to plastics and rubbers; but more importantly, to animal leather.

The Majestic Palm

Planting a New Palm

In the course of his exploration and experimentation with new materials, Tjeerd zeroed in on areca nut palm leaves, which are flexible and leather-like when fresh butturn rigid when dry.Considering the abundance of availability of this natural produce and its equally rampant disregard, Tjeerd’sdiligent efforts resulted in the development of a biological solution, which softens these leaves permanently and thus was born -‘vegetarian leather’.

Leaf Cutting


This innovative andbiodegradable material lends itself to stitching and Tjeerdhas been rolling out products like throw-away flip-flops, book covers and bags, made out of palm leather. Areca nut palm’s abundance in South India has brought him to Gadag, where he’s set up a palm leather unit.

Tote Bag


The unit is also supplying throw-away sandals to hotels and resorts,which have come to replace plastic sandals. The fact that these palm leather sandals are compostable brings the significance of Tjeerd’screation to the fore, as plastic sandals end up in landfills just after hours of use, only to remain there as such, for centuries.

Retail Wear

Resort Wear

Palm leather, being inexpensive, has brought into circulation, a design philosophy that focuses on designing for the poor rather than for the rich. For Tjeerd, designing isn’t just about aesthetics; it is something that should bring about a change in the world for the better. His socially and ecologically responsible initiatives make him the well-deserved winner of ‘The Green Design Competition, 2012’.

Sorting Parts

Learning to Stitch

The transition of his efforts from being an individual designer’s initiative into an entirely new craft, strengthening local economies in a big way,wonderfully demonstrates the ‘power of one’ in bringing about the much-needed change in the world.The project has been actively running in Gadag, South India for a year now. 

1 comment :

  1. Hello
    Who does one communicate with in order to procure these products on a wholesale basis?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...