Nov 252019
What Is Vegan Leather? Everything You Need To Know

The number of designers who offer vegan leather products is increasing. Perhaps, that is because faux leather is versatile and the number of people who buy the products is increasing too.

From beautiful wallets and shoes to jackets in every color and cut and cute black dresses, you will get vegan leather versions of each. That is for the starters.

But for people who want to try more products, the market offers vegan leather boots, shoes, seat covers for vehicles and handbags. So, what is vegan leather?

Not made from animals

Vegan leather is also known as faux leather because the producers do not use materials from animals to make it. That is a massive benefit for the animal activists, who are against the killing of animals for their skins and hides.

Statistics show that billions of pigs, cows, goats, alligators, ostriches, sheep, dogs, cats and kangaroos are slaughtered each year for their skins.


People cut off the horns and tails of the animals without any painkillers and some people will skin the animals while still alive. The availability of vegan leather has saved animals from the pain.


Made from different materials

So what is vegan leather made from? Producers of vegan leather often use polyurethane (PU) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) plastics.

They also use sustainable and innovative materials like cork, pineapple leaves, apple peels, and recycled plastic.


The use of synthetic materials to make this type of leather has raised many questions about its safety and dangers to the environment.

Vegan leather producers rarely use natural materials to make them.


The production of vegan leather

The distributors use various chemicals and industrial processes that are different from those used when producing real leather products.

Commonly, they bond plastic coatings to fabric backings. Coatings vary and they determine whether the faux leather is environmentally friendly or not.

While the use of PVC plastics has reduced since the 1970s, some manufacturers still use it to manufacture some types of vegan leather.


This plastic material releases dioxins that are potentially dangerous in closed spaces, particularly if the users burn them.

Faux leather manufacturers will also use phthalate, which is extremely toxic, to make the leather flexible.


PU is modern and less damaging than plastic.

Manufacturers are developing it to reduce its flaws such as the dangerous toxins it releases during production and to eliminate the oil-based polymers that require the addition of fossil fuels to the production process.

Fortunately, many young entrepreneurs are working hard to create alternative biodegradable materials that will replace plastic materials.

Two entrepreneurs, Marte Caarez and Adrian Lopez Velarde from Mexico have already launched organic leather known as Desserto, which they make from nopal cactus.


Their goal was to create environmentally friendly and sustainable cruelty-free leather.

Apart from being partially biodegradable, Desserto meets the technical specifications needed in the automotive, furniture, fashion and leather goods industry.

It is breathable, durable, and flexible and it can last for over 10 years.

The look and smell of vegan leather

Vegan leather made of PU or PVC plastic has a strange smell associated with the used chemicals.

Most people describe it like a fishy smell that can be hard to get rid of without ruining the leather material.

PVC releases gaseous toxins that give off a bad smell. Organic cactus leather does not have this same smell.



The market offers several forms of faux leather in different quality.

So, some of them are more like real leather than others are. Generally, the look of vegan leather is not very different from that of real leather.

But because faux leather is made of synthetic materials, it forms a patina different from that of real leather after aging.

Manufacturers print artificial pores on the surface of faux leather, which means that it is less breathable than real leather.


Deciding between vegan leather and real leather

When choosing between real leather and vegan leather, you have to consider the impacts of the two on the environment.

While vegan leather might imply environmental friendliness, that is not always the case. Faux leather was named vegan leather because it is not made of animal products.

Although its increased use is a great benefit for the animals, its production has severe effects on the environment and our health because of the toxins in plastics used in the production.


The production and disposal of plastic leather, particularly PVC-based leather, releases dangerous dioxins, which cause reproduction and development issues.

Synthetic materials are not fully biodegradable. Although they break down to some degree, they release phthalates and other toxic particles that can affect the health of people, animals, and the environment.

Durability and quality are the other two factors to consider when deciding between faux and real leather.


Faux leather is thinner than real leather and lightweight.

That is a big advantage to fashion designers because the features make it easier to work with. Unfortunately, faux leather is less durable than real leather.

Quality real leather may last for decades if the user cares for it properly but a pair of faux leather shoes will last for less than a year. That means you will have to replace your faux leather items more often.


PVC-based faux leather is not breathable. On the other hand, real leather has pores. So, when used to make jackets and other clothing items, faux leather can be uncomfortable.

You will hate it forever if you wore it for an extended period on a hot day.


The other thing is the price of leather items you need.

Generally, faux leather is inexpensive because producers use cheap materials to make them.

Remember that the creation of leather products, such as furniture, luggage, and jackets, is expensive because of the required artisanship.


That means leather products can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on their quality.

Real leather manufacturers can command the prices because people know that their products are durable and of great quality.




When buying leather products, you might end up paying for the low-quality leather items and some that require more care than necessary.

And if they get any damage, you will need the services of a professional who will charge nearly half of the amount you paid for the item for repair.

Vegan is an ok alternative to real leather.

In the market, you will get eco-friendly vegan products that are easier to care for.

Unfortunately, they might cost you nearly the same amount you would pay for real leather products.


A Few Final Thoughts

If you ever need a helping hand or have any questions on this product or want to leave a comment or a review of your own, please do so in the space provided below.

I will be more than happy to answer them as best to my knowledge and would enjoy hearing from you.

If you want to join me on this journey, please use the social links below or subscribe to my newsletter on the right-hand side of this page.

All the best,


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Reader Comments

  1. This article makes me think twice before buying leather products in general. Non vegan is cruel against animals it came from and some vegan leathers are toxic. Thank you for a very informative post Catherine.


  2. Wow, this is interesting for I did not even know that you could make leather out of something other than animals. That is why I have never bought any. Now I can and know that I am not wearing an animal on my back. Thanks for the great read

    1. glad you enjoyed it Lori and good for you for not buying leather. I find it so difficult to avoid because the quality is hard to beat. I have always felt guilty for wearing it but now I know about my alternative options. Thank you for stopping by.

  3. Nice article well written, easy to the eye and relevant info.
    I have actually never thought about leather in this way before, only the Fur industry, which I have been very much against.

  4. I agree with Maryann, this made me think about alternatives to all leather products. None of it seems that great, poor animals and bad for the environment and toxic for us? No thanks. I appreciate the information and your time sharing about living greener. So important these days!

    1. Yes, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that vegan leather is a better option but they are both bad in my eyes. you are more than welcome. I am pleased that you enjoyed it. All the best.

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