What Is Faux Leather?

This blog post “What is faux leather?” has last been updated on 31/01/2020)

It is undeniable that wearing or using faux leather based fashion product could compliment our style and somehow increase our confidence. The demand of this kind of material keeps increasing and we count more and more items made of it: shoes, bags…

Despite the trend, not everyone has a deep understanding of the kind of leatherette they buy, of its making process and of whether or not it meets the ethical guideline they may expect. At Attitude Organic, we pay extra attention to all of these aspects. If you are a faux leather lover and care to find out more, check this article out!

What is Faux Leather?

Faux leather (or vegan leather) is one of many other terminologies given to artificial or synthetic leather. Created to mimic the similar feel to genuine leather, it was invented by the Germans during World War and improved by DuPont in 1963. In better quality and more comfortable, we now use it to make any clothing or upholstery.

We could say that vegan leather is definitely the best alternative to the cheaper version of leather material, and at the same time, does not contain any animal-derived ingredients. There are two types of leatherette: both made from plastic, one is the mixed with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and the other with polyurethane (PU). The PU type, more breathable is used to make our biker jacket while the PVC one is mostly used for furniture and sofas.

Thanks to the latest technology we can create the best imitation of real leather with lots of colours and patterns option. Our love for pretty looking faux leather is definitely satisfied. However as we are passionate about health and ethical issues, what else should we know about this synthetic leather?

Is Faux Leather Vegan Friendly?

Vegan leather

Being critical vegan-friendly and cruelty-free products enthusiasts, it is important to ask ourselves a question, “Is faux leather vegan?”

As explained above, the faux leather fabric making is human-made and hurts no animals. Thus it is safe to say that this leatherette is vegan friendly!

The rise of people who are conscious of what they wear results in a higher demand of cruelty-free products and inspires more fashion houses to go vegan. Media oftentimes highlight this incredible transformation, and we can finally see that major brands such Gucci and Michael Kors have now stopped using real leather. (Yay!) And we do genuinely hope that more and more big fashion houses will follow their paths! The famous Matt & Nat bag brand offers a more affordable range of vegan bags if you consider a most conscious purchase.

Environmental Health and Ethical Issues Surrounding Faux Leather

Faux leather may be kinder to animal but does it have any effects on us or on our mother earth? As explained before, its main ingredients are plastic and some other chemicals. Take PVC as an example: it contains toxic components such as phthalate, chlorine and lead. Those substances cause cancer when in contact with the skin too often.

There is some PVC-free vegan leather, but it contains petroleum-based chemical as a substitute. We all know that petroleum oils come from fossil fuel which is not renewable either sustainable. Besides, the manufacturing of this oil emits carbon dioxide. We can clearly say that PVC-free vegan leather is not safe for the environmental health.

What You Need to Know Before Purchasing Faux Leather

Now we have a bigger understanding about faux leather. Regardless the kind of consumer you are, it remains important to stay alert and critical about whatever we take or buy by paying more attention at the product’s label.

PETA has suggested that the best kind of faux leather fabric is the PU type. Some garment scientist have also discovered vegetable-based plastic and they are now able to make PU plastic with vegetable oil. This special type of PU-based faux leather is biodegradable, environmentally friendly and more sustainable! Fashion brands use more and more this so called “eco-friendly leather” and/or PU to make their bags and shoes.

2020 Updates: We Made So Much Progress

Alsmost two years after the publication of that article, we can all be very proud of all the progresses that have been made by both creative fashion brands and scientists.

As explained before, we used to make vegan leather from PVC and PU that are plastics. Although, I believe it is better than using dead animal skin for ethical and ecological reasons, the alternatives were not optimum.

Today, we count so many other faux leather types that are cruelty-free and eco-friendly and you will for sure find one that you like.

Cork Leather

PETA named cork fabric as an excellent alternative to faux leather and regular leather due to its similar (even better and less toxic) properties. This means, cork as a base material for bag and other fashion purposes does no harm to the environment. Read more about Cork Leather here!

Pineapple Leather

Dr Carmen Hijosa has developed a natural leather alternative made from cellulose fibres extracted from pineapple. This pineapple leather is called Piñatex and it is used to create sustainable pieces of clothing and unique accessories such as Piñatex shoes and Piñatex bags. Discover how to make pineapple leather and where to buy Piñatex products.

Apple Leather

Conceived by The Apple Girl, Apple Leather is made from the tons of pulp waste accumulated in pressing apples for cider and juice. All the ingredients are safe and biodegradable. It is the perfect exemple of creative upcycling ideas and how a circular Economy could work.

Mushroom Leather

This faux leather, called Muskin, comes from a certain type of mushroom caps. It mimics the texture of “real leather”. It is tanned with nontoxic ingrédients, is biodegradable, softer, more breathable, and more water repellent than leather derived from animals

Final Thoughts

As educated customers, we must be aware that there are drawbacks in every thing we do or buy. In the faux leather case, by protecting animals, we might affect our health or the environment. However, the best thing we could do is to be curious about the cruelty-free business practice. Also, keep supporting brands that put extra effort to create a more sustainable product. Cheers!