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Category: Apparel

Man's best friend: Beyond Skin's Natalie Dean and Heather Whittle. Photograph: Alex Lake for the Observer Alex Lake/Observer

Triumph for Polyurethane Fashion at Ethical Awards

Designers from the Beyond Skin fashion label won the Sustainable Fashion Award at this year’s Observer Ethical Awards for their pioneering use of polyurethane in shoe design. Entrepreneurs Natalie Dean and Heather Whittle have been lauded for their eco-friendly footwear, with several of their faux-leather designs utilizing polyurethane. Celebrities from Natalie Portman to Anne Hathaway, Leona Lewis to Emma Watson, have sported shoes by the brand, which was founded in 2001.

Polyurethane’s flexibility makes it a key asset to designers striving to create the most stylish shoes, as it can be readily molded into a variety of shapes. Its durability ensures that footwear made of polyurethane will be hard wearing. And, as Beyond Skin’s recent awards success proves, polyurethane provides an alternative to traditional materials used in the production of shoes.

Beyond Skin’s footwear makes use of polyurethane in the production of shoe uppers and heels – and, the company makes 100% polyurethane shoes too. The lightweight, breathable and anti-bacterial textile is sourced from Italy and represents the perfect alternative to leather. Not only does polyurethane look just like the animal product – it also shares its properties of stretch, stiffness and permeability. In addition to being more animal-friendly than the latter fabric, polyurethane offers advantages in terms of energy economy, eschewing the energy wastage of tanneries.

The Archie shoe marks just one example of Beyond Skin’s commitment to polyurethane in their creation of footwear. These fashionable shoes are made entirely of polyurethane– right down to their padded insoles – and look all the better for it, featuring a retro block heel and cool metallic finish.

Polyurethane can also be used in the making of a range of other items of clothing, from watches to faux-leather jackets. As the versatile polyurethane can be fashioned into fine threads, the material has played a crucial role in the development of such products as spandex. Lightweight, stretchable, resistant to stains and abrasion; polyurethane really does have all clothing bases covered. On the catwalks and on main street, polyurethane is making its mark. Make sure your wardrobe isn’t lacking the fabric du jour.