From being Newton’s aha moment for the law of gravity to inspiring the popular ‘keep the doctor away’ proverb, there’s no questioning the versatility of the apple. But if you thought that the humble fruit belongs only in your cider or pie, you’re in for a surprise. Sarjaa, a newly-launched homegrown brand founded by Anjana Arjun turns apple skin into handcrafted bags that are as sustainable as they are stunning. Going beyond using vegan leather in the form of PVC which comes with a threat of micro-plastic pollution, the brand makes use of natural plant and fruit-based leather made out of upcycled waste material from the food industries— giving you a clean yet sophisticated leather alternative to suit your lifestyle. We caught up with Anjana to find out more about the brand:
ELLE: What is the demand for leather alternatives in the Indian market?
Anjana Arjun (AA): In India, there is still very little awareness about sustainable leather. When people think of sustainability in India the first thing that comes to mind is products made out of jute or linen, very minimal or recycled. We don’t associate sustainability with a super elevated look and that’s the gap I found in the market. With Sarjaa I aim to bridge that gap by bringing really chic products to the table while being sustainable at the same time.
ELLE: What sets your brand apart from the others working with plant and fruit-based leather in India?
AA: Pineapple and cactus skin leather may have been done before but we’re the first to use apple leather in India. But what really sets us apart is the design value. Each bag has a story to it and a touch of India, for example, inside the bags we’re using prints created by local mehendi artists. My vision for the brand is to be able to represent India on a global level. While we are currently sourcing the apple skin leather from abroad, the next big step for me that I’m currently working on is to bring the production to India. And this is something I wouldn’t want to gatekeep— everyone should be able to incorporate these materials into their products. As a country, that’s the major goal here. I would never call ourselves 100% sustainable because nobody is yet, but we’re all just evolving and we will get there.
ELLE: Could you expand on the process of turning apple skin into leather and handling the material?
AA: The apple leather we use is derived from the waste recovered from the juicing industry. The mushy waste is processed to form apple leather, which is absolutely cruelty-free. Real leather needs to be chemically treated to stop it from decomposing, the residue of which lands up in our waters and land. This is what we’re against. With apple leather, there are no toxic pigments or chemicals that are used and the water consumption is also low which makes it a win-win situation. We’ve spent around two years just researching and developing these products, what kind of needles go into it etc you know, even if the needles are a little bit bigger you can see white fibres coming out from the materials. After a lot of different challenges, we’ve finally come to a really good quality product.
Mr Manmath, Manufacturer: Fruit and plant-based leather has a completely different DNA so we had to start at ground zero to understand how flexible the material is and if it can be moulded into our designs. We used water-based adhesives and eco-friendly material on the inside. Even with the fixations, joints, and buckles, we had to see how the metal reacted with the leather. We’ve worked on the touch, feel, smell, comfort and weight of the bag to create a good sensory experience.
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ELLE: Real leather bags require a lot of maintenance, do plant and fruit-based leather require the same care?
AA: Spot cleaning is more than enough. All of our bags are water resistant and we recently found out that it’s also oil resistant. My sister actually bought a bag and spilt oil all over it by mistake. At first, she thought the bag would be ruined but when she wiped it, the oil came right off.
ELLE: What’s next for your brand?
AA: I definitely want to explore more materials like mushrooms, grapes etc and I want to start creating clothing using these fruit fibres. Home decor is also on my list. I love interior designing and I think it would be really exciting to make some small furniture, table mats and things like that. Coming up soon!