Kering — the luxury conglomerate that owns some of fashion's hottest brands — is a major player in the global leather goods industry. So when news broke that the company invested in VitroLabs, a startup developing lab-grown leather, we luxury-heads at Highsnobiety were left wondering: huh???

According to Business of Fashion, Kering is one of several parties — including Leonardo DiCaprio and Danish fashion company Bestseller — that invested in VitroLabs as part of a $46 million Series A funding round.

The move comes as Kering continues to build sustainability into its strategy. In 2020, the company released its first sustainability progress report. By 2050, the company aims to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

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In 2021, Kering announced its decision to go fur-free, an effort to address the ethics and environmental impact of fur farms. And last March, the luxury giant acquired a five percent stake in Vestiaire Collective, the fashion resale platform that promotes circular consumption.

By investing in VitroLab, Kering furthers its commitment eco-conscious initiatives. But is lab-grown leather a product customers will actually buy?

VitroLabs' website suggests yes. Its leather is generated from cells taken from a living cow via biopsy (a harmless and virtually painless procedure, in case you were wondering). In a "specialized bioreactor," those sampled cells then grow into animal hide in just a few weeks.

VitroLabs presents an appealing alternative to "vegan" leathers, often made from plastics (not the most eco-friendly material, considering how long it takes to biodegrade) prone to cracking. With lab-grown leather, you get genuine leather and all its benefits, durability and suppleness included, without slaughtering a cow or waiting for it to die.

It's unclear whether Kering plans to incorporate lab-grown leather into its production processes, or when VitroLabs would scale large enough to work with, say, Gucci on a Jackie bag, or with Balenciaga on a Le Cagole. Still, lab-grown luxury is an exciting prospect.

With VitroLabs in the picture, the real vs. faux debate might finally be quashed — why settle for fake when you can get the real thing, cruelty-free?

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