Vegan leather is popular in the fashion industry. Do you know it is vegan leather made of? Read to find out the answers.
Vegan leather can be made from a variety of materials, some of which are more environmentally friendly than others, as opposed to real leather, which is made from animal skins.
But what is vegan leather made of? PVC and PU are the two main materials used to make the vast majority of vegan leather. PU and PVC leather can take thousands of years to decompose because they are both types of plastic derived from petroleum.
Read on for more information.
What is Vegan Leather Made Of?
Learn more about the various materials that can be used to create vegan leather in the following paragraphs.
The one material to stay away from is PVC (polyvinyl chloride, also known as vinyl), which is frequently used in low-cost vegan leather products sold by fast-fashion retailers. The raw materials used to make it come from salt and petroleum.
Greenpeace calls it “the most environmentally harmful plastic” and refers to it as “poison plastic.” The production, use, and disposal of PVC cause the release of hazardous, chlorine-based chemicals. The levels of these toxins are rising in the food chain, the air, and the water.
As a result, there were serious health issues like cancer, immune system harm, and hormone disruption. Everyone and everything is contaminated because they all have detectable levels of chlorinated toxins in their bodies.’
Polyurethane, a plastic polymer made from petroleum, is the most typical material used in vegan leathers. To create vegan leather, it is frequently fused with a fabric backing. Even though the production of PU isn’t entirely non-toxic, it is a much greener alternative to the well-known PVC (vinyl) plastic because it is much more breathable, flexible, and light.
Whereas PVC produces harmful dioxins and uses highly toxic chlorine, PU doesn’t need the same chemical plasticizers and does degrade over time. Given how similar it looks and feels to animal leather, it’s a fantastic substitute.
Many of our brands that use PU vegan leather, like Allkind and Ashoka, have their manufacturing facilities in Europe where there are strict emission controls on PU production, further increasing the sustainability of the material. Yes, PU is definitely durable and can last a very long time if it is made with quality and longevity in mind.
Vegetable-based PU, which is made from plant oils, is now being tested by many brands. As a result, there are fewer chemical hazards associated with producing PU, and the substance is also more readily biodegradable.
While Watson & Wolfe uses PU vegan leather made from more than 50% zero-carbon plant oils, Good Guys Don’t Wear Leather uses vegan leather with zero CO2 emissions that are made from polymers derived from naturally renewable sources like cereals and vegetable seeds.
Piñatex, a wonderful vegan leather created by Ananas Anam, is made from pineapple leaf fibers, a byproduct of the pineapple industry, and gives pineapple farmers a second source of income in addition to producing a new, incredibly sustainable leather-like material.
Although it is not yet biodegradable, the company is working on changes to make it so. Piñatex is a fabric that many of our brands, like Hozen and LUXTRA, use in their collections. For more Piñatex shoes, bags, and accessories, visit our Piñatex Edit.
One of the world’s largest apple-producing regions, Bolzano in northern Italy, is the source of this amazing vegan leather, which is created from a waste product once again: apples are grown for the food industry.
After being dried and ground into a powder, the salvaged apple skin and core waste is transported to a factory in Florence where it is coagulated with PU and coated onto a cotton and polyester base.
The end product, which resembles real leather in both appearance and feel, is ethical leather that contains at least 50% apple fiber. Apple leather is a very tough material that can last for several seasons in your wardrobe.
Cactus leaves are used to create cactus leather, a vegan product that is durable. The cacti were developed on a Mexican organic plantation without the use of pesticides or herbicides.
The only water used to grow these plants is rainwater, which is abundant in the area where the ranch is located, and the earth’s mineral-rich soil. They do not use an irrigation system. Any organic cactus material that isn’t used is exported and sold to the food industry.
Also known as cork skin, cork vegan leather is made from harvesting the bark of the cork oak tree, which can renew itself every nine years by growing back. Raw cork bark that has been harvested is allowed to dry for about six months. After being steamed and boiled to give them flexibility, they are then cut into thin slices and pressed into natural leather.
Cork leather is a great material for bags in particular because it is waterproof, stain resistant, simple to maintain, and very light. While Murmali, a cork expert, makes the most exquisite backpacks, clutches, and crossbody bags from this material, one of the most environmentally friendly plant leathers on the market, Svala uses cork skin for a number of their bags.
The innovative vegan leather known as “grape leather” by VEGEA, winner of the H&M Global Change Award, is created by mixing waste grape skins from winemaking with plant oils and natural fibers derived from agriculture.
The bio-compound created from these plant-based raw materials is spread onto an organic cotton backing. The process does not involve any harmful chemicals, heavy metals, or solvents.
Is Vegan Leather Better for the Environment?
According to BBC News, the fashion industry alone creates 8 to 10 percent of global emissions. Fast fashion, or the mass production of inexpensive clothing, is particularly immoral and unsustainable.
So, is making vegan leather a more environmentally friendly choice? Yes, but it’s not the only choice.
You could think of it like this: vegan leather is better for both the planet and the environment than animal-based leather, but vegan leather could definitelybe a more sustainable industry overall.
Real leather requires a lot of livestock, water, grain, agricultural land, tanning, and animal suffering, all of which result in significant emissions and pollution. Thus, using plants to make leather—whether they are grown specifically for this purpose or are agricultural byproducts—is a step toward sustainability.
This isn’t necessarily the case, though, with alternative leather made from plastic-based substances like polyurethane and polyvinyl chloride. Plastic-based leather, and plastic-based products, in general, are often made with toxic chemicals and can take decades to decompose, releasing microplastics and chemicals into the environment in the process, per Harper’s Bazaar.
Uses of Vegan Leather
Vegan leather is a flexible material that is used to make a wide variety of products. This ranges from sports equipment like American footballs and baseball gloves to watch straps and book bindings.
Because the fabric is frequently thin and stretchy, upholstery is another important market. Recently, Tesla announced that optional vegan leather seating was available, joining other luxury automakers like Ferrari and BMW in the market.
However, the fashion sector is home to the most well-known manufacturers of vegan leather. Veja, a French brand of ethical sneakers, uses only vegan leather in more than one-third of its footwear.
Leading female designer Stella McCartney has promoted vegan leather’s aesthetic and eco-friendliness in the luxury segment of the market through her collections made entirely of pleather.
Even Bottega Veneta and Dolce & Gabbana sell designer bags made of vegan leather. Overall, the non-leather handbag market increased by $46 billion between 2012 and 2021, largely due to the popularity of vegan leather (Statista).
Conclusions: What is Vegan Leather Made Of?
Vegan leather can be created using synthetic, plant-based, or a combination of the two materials. Among the most popular sources of vegan leather are plastic (and recycled plastic) substances like polyurethane and polyvinyl chloride.
Is Vegan Leather Really Just Plastic?
Vegan leather mimics real leather, but it’s produced using artificial or plant-based materials. Vegan leather is frequently produced using PVC and polyurethane, especially in the fast fashion industry. These materials are not exactly the most environmentally friendly option because they are made of plastic and petroleum.
Is Vegan Leather as Good as Leather?
Even at a high standard, faux leather is typically much less expensive and of a lower quality than real leather. Vegan leather is ultimately much less durable than real leather and tends to be thinner so it’s not uncommon for it to tear or scuff badly over time.
Is Vegan Leather Just PU Leather?
Vegan leather and PU leather are identical and do not differ significantly. PU leather happens to be a part of vegan leather. PU leather is polyurethane leather made with thermoplastic polymers, while vegan leather is made from polyurethane and other organic plant ingredients and byproducts.