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Tory Burch Gives Iconic Bag a Plant-Based Leather Alternative Makeover

Tory Burch is dipping a toe into biomaterials.

The luxury women’s wear label revealed Tuesday that it has teamed up with Modern Meadow to fashion a “plant-based leather alternative” tote—its first such product—using the latter’s proprietary protein-based platform.

“Consumer demand for products that are good for the planet is ever accelerating,” said Catherine Roggero-Lovisi, CEO of Modern Meadow. “Since 2008, the Ella tote has been one of Tory Burch’s most iconic, well-loved handbag styles. Modern Meadow is proud to be a part of its next evolution as a high-performing and bio-based tote consumers can feel confident in.”

The New Jersey firm’s Bio-Alloy technology, as its name suggests, comprises a “unique alloy of proteins and bio-based polymers” designed to offer “unparalleled performance” in terms of durability and color vibrancy, the company says. More platform than product, it’s able to create materials, like the BioFabbrica Bio-Tex that forms the outer shell of the Ella Bio, to suit a range of applications.

Bio-Tex, Modern Meadow notes, is a USDA-certified bio-based material derived from non-GMO soy grown in North America and designed for Tory Burch to be tough and lightweight. It’s also designed to contain a high proportion of renewable ingredients. A common complaint about ersatz leathers is that they are dripping with petrochemicals, a characterization that the company takes issue with, though it has admitted ​​that the industry “just hasn’t advanced enough” to dispense with fossil fuels entirely.

The Ella Bio itself is 64 percent bio-based and “feels and looks like leather,” said Jennifer Gootman, global head of sustainability and ESG strategy at Tory Burch. Like other Modern Meadow products, Bio-Tex is “100 percent traceable from lab to brand.” Modern Meadow says that its technologies’ ability to “drop into” existing infrastructures helps with immediate and scalable adoption, not just in textiles but also beauty and other industries—a “rarity” in the space.

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This isn’t Bio-Tex’s first commercial outing. Everlane previously used the material in a version of its Day Market tote. Senreve, an Italian-made brand, also tapped it for its Vegan Terra collection of carryalls last year.

“The Ella Bio meets our design, quality, and durability expectations,” Gootman said. “It is a great example of a growing movement towards ‘next-gen’ materials that take inspiration from nature but are engineered to have a lower environmental impact.”

The Ella Bio, which costs $70-$100 more than the conventional Ella, comes in three sizes: mini ($228), small ($298) and standard ($348). An array of colors are available, from black and white to watermelon pink and limoncello yellow.