When you think of bespoke high-end luxury automobiles, mushroom leather probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind, but according to Bentley it could be just one of its future interior options.
It may come as no surprise that California is the epicentre of demand for non-animal interior alternatives, with Bentley Director of Design Stefan Sielaff revealing to the UK’s Auto Express that the company was investigating possible vegan alternatives through its Mulliner customisation program.
“You can’t sell an animal-containing product like a Bentley, with 20 leather hides, to someone with a vegan lifestyle,” Sielaff explained. “…We want to satisfy these customers because they are the peak of a trend.”
So what options does Bentley have? Well some of the more obvious high-end materials are out of the running, with things like the available wool trim from a Toyota Century or Maserati’s optional Ermenegildo Zegna silk trim both being derived from animal products.
Instead Bentley is preparing a vehicle fully-kitted with animal-free alternatives. “We will shortly present a Bentley with a vegan interior; it’ll give you a luxury sensation but with a different way – protein leather, mushroom leather, jellyfish material.” Sielaff said.
For those a little unsure, protein leather is actually just a nicer way of saying vinyl, or more accurately PVC-based plastic leather, the formulation of which can be tweaked to provide a similar look and soft feel to real leather, but with greater durability.
As the name suggest mushroom leather – or MuSkin – is derived from a parasitic fungus, and is tanned in an entirely toxic-free way and looks and feels similar to suede. The manufacturing process can lead to naturally occurring blemishes or scratches, giving it a more organic look.
By far the most contentious inclusion is jellyfish – mooted as a way to control growing jellyfish populations, jellyfish can be processed just like cowhide and has already made waves (pardon the pun) in the fashion industry.
But hang on, aren’t Jellyfish living creatures? Well yes, but because they aren’t considered sentient, and because PETA hasn’t yet started campaigning for jellyfish welfare, it seems that vegans (or at least Bentley product planners) consider it a perfectly reasonable resource.
Bentley hasn’t put an expected arrival date on its animal-free interior options yet, but expect much fanfare when the new interior trims are ready with Bentley joining Tesla and its ‘vegan’ Model S and Model X special order options as one of the few premium automakers to cater specifically to its vegan clientele.
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