Chic and stylish clothing can be created using vegan leather, without needlessly using innocent animals for human vanity. And you don’t have to be vegan to appreciate vegan leather’s versatility either. Learn more about what is vegan leather here.
When you want to sport a fierce looking motorcycle jacket, are in need of a handbag, or want some comfortable but durable shoes, vegan leather has got you covered.
What is vegan leather?
Vegan leather or synthetic leather is often created using compounds such as polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride.
Often when looking at fashionable items that are cruelty-free, vegan leather is labeled as PVC when based on polyvinyl chloride, or PU leather when made from polyurethane. Both of these materials are plastic based, and are also marked with the term, ‘pleather.’
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Vegan leather provides an outlet or people who want to dress nicely, but desire an alternative material that represents their values and lifestyle. The development of vegan leather has helped broaden the horizons of the fashion industry. It also raised awareness about the use of animals for fashion and human consumption.
The great thing about vegan leather is that it is available in a plethora of items created by various designers. Furthermore, it lessens the heavy toll placed on animals.
However, vegan leather or faux leather is not without its drawbacks. Depending on the production of vegan leather, and the materials sourced to construct faux leather, there is still room for progress.
What Materials Are Used to Create Vegan Leather?
What is vegan leather? Vegan leather is usually PVC or PU based. However, it is possible to create faux leather that is vegan-friendly from more environmentally responsible materials.
Materials That Can Be Used to Create Vegan Leather Include
- PVC or polyvinyl chloride
- PU or polyurethane
Synthetic leather that is made using plastic materials can release hazardous toxins and particulates into the environment.
Many ingredients used to make vegan leather are not biodegradable to the degree needed to reduce having a harmful impact on animals, people, and the planet. Plus, vegan leathers made using plastics can end up releasing phthalates or dioxins, especially when using PVC-based synthetics.
More Ecologically Friendly Vegan Leather Materials
- Inner Tubes or Recycled Rubber
- Pineapple or Apple Waste Products
- Tree Bark and Leaves
- Slate Stone
- Waxed Cotton
Sourcing materials that are both sustainable, and a more sound choice on the planet and its inhabitants are increasingly a focal point for more responsible fashion designers. Thankfully, the earth is replete with many excellent sources that can create leather-like textiles to create accessories, clothing, and other delightful creations.
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Mushrooms may seem like a strange material to create vegan leather. However, fungi is a naturally occurring life form on the planet. In fact, fungi can grow into faux leather. The fungus Phellinus ellipsoideus grows in the wild and attacks trees located in subtropical forests.
MuSkin was developed using this parasitic fungus to create an alternative to animal-based leather that is 100% vegan and 100% vegetable based. This mushroom-based vegan leather is soft to the touch and feels similar to suede.
Clients interested in MuSkin or the mushroom-based leather can have their textile grown to specific size and order. After a treatment using wax, the material can even become waterproof.
The Beauty of Upcycling
Another fantastic source of vegan leather is upcycling or transforming inner tubes or recycled rubber. Many fashion designers have appreciated the flexibility that inner tubes or recycled rubber have. Belts, shoes, handbags, cuffs, and accessories have been created using this material.
Recycled rubber can mimic the look of matte leather or fine grain, and has low-key maintenance.
Beyond Orange And Banana Peels
Before thinking about throwing fruit waste into the compost bin, it might have a future as vegan leather. Wasted parts from the pineapple bush and waste from apples have been used to create unique plant-based leather that is cruelty-free.
The brand Happy Genie is a luxury fashion label that happily offers items made using fibers from apples. Piñatex is a textile created using the leaves from the pineapple fruit, and the result feels similar to cowhide. The Piñatex -based leather is not only durable, but watertight, and is used to make shoes and bags.
The Trees Have The Answer
Trees have been used for making paper for centuries and make for quite the sturdy textile. However, vegan leather can be created using the bark of trees. The wood-based leather is similar to cork but can be used to create pants and outerwear garments.
Dolce and Gabbana released bags and footwear using tree bark leather, treated with compounds to ensure the textile is durable but flexible for chic creations.
Leaves from trees can also be used to create a sturdy and flexible form of vegan leather. Leaves are treated using a polymer and preserved into sheets of fiber textiles. Leaf-based leather can be used to create wallets, bags, and more, requiring no toxic compounds during production.
An attractive looking vegan leather uses slate stone, which gives the resulting textile a gray finish. Fashionistas who love the look of aged leather that has survived the wear and tear of the years may appreciate the beauty of this unique leather that looks akin to a weathered stone. Used to create bags, belts, and other items, as this material ages it becomes softer.
Vegan leather offers the benefits of being waterproof and flexible, and waxed cotton does not disappoint. Major fashion labels have used waxed cotton to create bags and pants. This vegan leather is easily maintained with a go in the washing machine, and doesn’t require the use of toxic chemicals for processing or upkeep.
The wax used on the cotton is friendly on the environment and helps protect against the wear and tear from the elements, which can besiege animal-based leather.
What Types of Goods Are Made With Vegan Leather?
Vegan leather is versatile, and perfect for creating an array of fashionable apparel and accessories. Whether requiring the use of upcycling or transforming what would otherwise be waste products tossed away, vegan leather is hot chic.
You can find handbags, wallets, shoes, belts, guitar straps, wrist cuffs, and jackets all made using vegan leather.
Be advised; not all vegan leather is created equal. Unfortunately, most retailers and fashion designers still cling to using toxic PU or PVC synthetic leather to make vegan creations. Vegan leather derived from more sustainable and earth-friendly materials are superior for their lighter impact on the planet, animals, and human health.
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When choosing an article of clothing or another good made from vegan leather, it is excellent to support manufacturers and fashion labels that eschew dangerous and toxic compounds in the production of their items. Certain faux leathers, such as waxed cotton are better when organic than conventional.
Wearing vegan leather is not just a fashion statement, but a commitment to a healthier and brighter future for all life on the planet. PU and PVC vegan leather need to get the heave-ho, as plastic-based leathers do more harm than good.
Pros and Cons of Vegan Leather
Vegan leather humanely enhances clothing and accessories versus conventional animal-based leather.
- Vegan leather can be created using materials that are sustainable, can withstand washing in the washer machine, and do not require a toxic chemical process to create.
- Additionally, it reduces waste in landfills when created using upcycled inner tubes or rubber.
- It is just as durable and flexible as animal-based leather and makes beautiful and versatile goods to wear and use.
- Also, vegan leather does not require taking the life of animals just to produce consumable fashion goods for human enjoyment.
- Wearing vegan leather is good karma, especially if it is not made using harmful materials like plastics.
- Materials used to create vegan leather help reduce contact with formaldehyde, cyanide, and other harmful solvents used in tanning animal leathers.
- Vegan leather is still often made with PU or PVC which is harmful to human health because of the toxic chemicals and compounds that leach out over time.
- PU or PVC-based vegan leathers are not biodegradable, contain dioxins, and release hazardous compounds when burned. Plasticizers are needed to transform rigid plastics into flexible PVC ‘pleather.’
- There are still limited numbers of fashion designers who choose more ecologically responsible and ethical materials to create vegan leather.
- Faux leather created from plastics do not break down quickly and contributes to a faulty consumerist cycle in fashion.
- Vegan leather created from more avant-garde sources may be more expensive than PVC or PU-based leathers.
A Humane Material for Progressive Fashion
As humanity realizes the constraints that they face in light of rampant consumerism, climate change, vying for natural resources, and the production of waste, vegan leather offers a solution.
Although vegan leather developed using harmful plastics provides an alternative to the landfill, the cost is too dear to the health of the environment, humans, animals, and plant life.
The creation of vegan leather has allowed for greater innovation and discovery in the fashion industry. The plant world continues to offer up various flora and fauna as viable sources of alternatives to traditional animal-based leather.
Vegan leather provides the opportunity to push the envelope of technology, fashion, and design with little to no negative impact on the health of the planet, animals, and humans. Now that you know what to say when someone asks, “What is vegan leather?”
Featured image credit: CC0 Creative Commons, Muecke via pixabay.com.