Vegan leather is an animal-friendly alternative to traditional leather that is made from synthetic materials or natural resources. It closely resembles conventional leather in both appearance and texture, but without the use of any animal products.
Vegan Leather made from Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC or VINYL)
PVC is the most cost-effective way to produce vegan leather, however, its detrimental effect on the environment is significant. Polyvinyl chloride leather is a variant of synthetic leather created by modifying vinyl, a pliable plastic resin, to achieve the desired texture, colour and form for a variety of leather products. Its impact on our planet cannot be overstated and this plastic has been described by Greenpeace as the most harmful to the environment. This is not surprising since its entire lifecycle (production, use, and disposal) results in the release of dangerous, toxic chemicals.
Furthermore, it contaminates water sources and produces significant amounts of waste in landfills due to its inability to biodegrade. Although vegan PVC leather is renowned for its durability and versatility, it is not eco-friendly.
Vegan Leather made from Polyurethane (PU)
Currently, the most commonly used material for making vegan faux leather is PU (Polyurethane), which is not as toxic as PVC.
Vegan PU leather is derived from a petroleum-based polymer. While it emits fewer harmful substances compared to PVC when used or disposed of, it is still petroleum-based and manufactured with solvents. Although solvent-free and water-based alternatives exist, they are not commonly produced by most manufacturers..
Is Vegan Leather good quality?
Different standards of quality can be found in vegan leather, just as it applies to traditional leather due to variations in processing methods by different manufacturers. While some may retain their excellent condition for decades, others may not.
Is Vegan Leather more expensive?
Vegan leather will always be cheaper than most traditional leather products, even if it has the best quality. This is because most of the materials used to make vegan leather are more affordable than those used in traditional leather.
Faux leather tends to be cheaper than genuine leather but with reasonable care, like everything else in life, can be long lasting.
Does Vegan Leather crack?
Depending on the material, vegan leather may crack if exposed to sunlight for extended periods, stretched excessively, or not properly cared for, similar to animal leather.
Is there a difference between Vegan Leather and Faux Leather?
There is no difference between vegan leather and faux leather. Faux leather is vegan because it’s not made from animal skins.
However, it wasn't until a decade ago that the term 'vegan leather' began to gain popularity. Around 2010, the term spread in the fashion world as several well-known vegan fashion designers such as Stella McCartney began creating clothing and accessories with faux leather. As these designers advocated for an ethical and vegan lifestyle, the mainstream scene began to associate the word 'vegan' with that type of leather. Prior to this, vegan leather was only known as 'faux leather'.
Some manufacturers label bonded leather as 'faux leather'. However, bonded leather is a combination of real and faux leather, so it doesn't truly belong in the fake leather category, so be cautious of this when shopping.
Is Vegan Leather just plastic?
Most vegan faux leather have a plastic element, although each year more and more sustainable materials are emerging, which helps to reduce the industry’s dependence on plastic.
Is Vegan Leather eco-friendly?
If your priority is to avoid animal cruelty at all costs, all faux leather is for you. However, if you also want to preserve the environment, remember that not all vegan leather is equal in terms of environmental preservation, so you will need to do your research.
While no vegan leather is perfect, alternatives like VEGEA or Piñatex take plastics and fossil fuel out of the equation and present themselves as both eco-friendly and ethical alternatives. These alternatives are slowly entering the mainstream scene but most of the companies that manufacture them are small and produce a limited amount of vegan leather. Furthermore, these products do not have the same properties as other vegan leather and can only be used to manufacture certain products.
However, it's an industry that still has a long way to grow and evolve, so we'll surely see improvements in their production and composition sooner rather than later. The future of sustainable vegan leather looks bright.