Is Vegan Leather a Real Thing?

When you are looking into ways that you can be more environmentally sound, your fashion choices become an important reckoning point. Many of us wear clothing that may have, or has, contributed to animal cruelty somewhere in the world. That can make us feel pretty lousy, so many of us are turning to vegan alternatives – such as vegan leather. What is vegan leather, though? For many, it sounds like a fantasy product.

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What is vegan leather?

So, what is vegan leather? It is a common alternative to using normal leather. It is not made from animals, but instead is a mixture of polyurethane (PU) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). These are seen as the ideal synthetic leather product as they tend to be strong, durable, and stylish looking, but crucially not made from the back of an animal.

You might have heard of it referred to as “pleather” – plastic leather – and this is the common term for vegan leather. For those who like the look of leather but feel uneasy about how leather products are made, this can be a fine alternative.

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Synthetic leathers are night and day from the real thing, and it is typically made by bonding together a plastic coating with a fabric backing. This creates the ‘pleather’ product that, for many, offers much the same look without the ethical quandary attached.

We must use safer synthetics, though. PU is seen as the safest product as it is much less likely to be a hazardous material. Phthalate was the original choice but it is seen as something that can be quite dangerous to the environment. PVC is also somewhat outdated as it was found to be hazardous when burnt. As such, today most fake leather products are made using PU as it has the least potential risks to the public.

Some vegan leathers are also made using different resources and materials. For example, some will use materials like cork, kelp, food peelings, and even tree bark. There are many ways that vegan leather can be made to still give you that cool leather looks without having to worry about how that leather came to be.