By Nevena Roussseva
The days of pleather are numbered. Finally!
So what will replace pleather? Meet Paper No. 9, a revolutionary new material that looks and feels like leather, but is made from recycled paper, yes good old paper….crazy right. I kind of couldn’t believe it until I met with co-founder Stephanie Benedetto and got the change to actually look and touch this innovative new textile, and let me tell you, it’s unbelievable.
Paper No. 9 started as a passion project for co-founder Rebecca Marshall, who spent several years playing around with recycled paper while earning a Masters in Industrial Design at Pratt Institute. The textile was inspired by the ancient Japanese wall covering material called kinkarakawakami.
After playing around with the concept Rebecca knew she had something and decided to take her material to market. That’s when Stephanie joined and the two college friends launched the company. As Stephanie puts it “Being an entrepreneur in a women based business in this sustainable environment, is a pleasure for me, it’s exactly what I wanted.”
The material is not weak or fragile like regular paper. It’s actually quite strong and sturdy, yet soft with a rich texture, and superior to any faux-leather material that is out in the market today. The other beauty of the product is of course that it’s made from recycled paper, rather than petrochemicals and polymers that are used to make pleather. The recycled paper material is backed with organic cotton denim made in the USA. The denim both helps make the material stronger and adds to the design effects of the textile. The paper material can also be back up with say silk for a lighter textile to create blouses or dresses. Currently Paper No. 9 is developing an iteration of the material with no fabric backing.
The color of the textile is based on the color of the recycled paper. Paper No. 9 purchases recycled paper from around the world. If the paper is green, the finished textile will also be green. No additional dyes are used because of the toxic effects dyeing creates, which also goes against the company’s ethical practices.
One of the best things about the textile is it can be customized. The stock collection comes in a heavier thicker weight, but all the styles are customizable into different weights, like a shirting weight, as well as different colors, and finishes. For example, one of the swatches I saw had a more distressed look because that is what one client wanted. One sample was done on embossed denim where the embossing was coming through the paper to create a type of motif. Some clients want to have the denim coming through for a more distressed look.
If, for example, a design house wanted the material in a specific color they could supply Paper No. 9 with the paper to create the material. Or if a designer wanted a specific type of print, say a magazine look, they can supply the company with the magazines or clippings they wanted. Of course in both these scenarios Paper No. 9 would have to run tests to make sure it’s doable, and assuming it is, then a designer can have a truly unique fabric to work with.
The textile should be thought of and treated like a fine leather in terms of cleaning and care. It’s specifically designed not to be machine washed which eliminates the harmful unsustainable effects of laundry wastewater. The material is made to be spot cleaned, which also eliminates the need for dry cleaning. And just like leather, over time it will age gently.
The textile has garnered a very positive response from a lot of New York and London fashion houses. Theyskens’ Theory used the paper last year and some very well known London designers will be using it in the near future. Stephanie could not say who the designers were, but I think one of the most obvious designers would be Stella McCartney, who does not use leather in her collections.
The textile is made by hand at the company’s Brooklyn studio. Every piece comes out slightly different and is one of a kind. The process time to make the fabric varies depending on what the client wants and the kind of look and texture they want. It can take anywhere from 4-6 hours to 2-3 days. The fabric is made in panels of about one yard.There are 4 to 6 main stages, but within these stages are some other ones depending on the final look the client wants. Price depends on whether the material is stock collection or a customized look and varies from $18 to $45 a square foot.
Paper No. 9 has been recognized by the fashion industry with several ways. The company have been presented with the Material ConneXion Certificate for Excellence in Material Development and they were finalists at the WGSN Global Fashion Awards, The Source Awards, and the Independent Handbag Designer Awards.
And all this is just the beginning for Paper No 9! I can’t wait to see this innovative and sustainable textile used by designers across the globe as an alternative to leather. So long pleather.
For more on Paper No. 9 click here.