Warning: Not All Vegan Leather is Ethical or Even Sustainable


Here’s what you should know before buying vegan leather


Having a pair of leather shoes is indispensable for many people. They’re perfect to maintain a chick, formal style without giving up comfort. And leather bags? They’re just too beautiful to give up wearing them!

You already know this, but animal leather causes immense suffering to animals, hurts the environment and is often produced by workers in very poor working conditions.

 The good news is: you can fight that by shopping for ethical, fairly made vegan leather products. By supporting ethical brands, you are voting with your money for a world where animals and workers' exploitation stops existing.

But… not every plant-based leather brand is sustainable, or even ethical. Some plant-based leather brands utilise production methods that are harmful to the environment and its workers. It’s important to take this into consideration before making a purchase!

 Read along to find out why some vegan leathers are more sustainable and ethical than others. Discover the durability of vegan leather and learn how to best take care of your vegan leather accessories.

Vegan Leather Apple Skin Bag by Aphra

Apple skin vegan leather bag - Aphra

What Is Vegan Leather Made From?

Vegan leather is a broad term, as it refers to all materials that substitute animal leather, creating shoes, clothing and accessories with a leather-like finish. It is also called artificial leather, synthetic leather or faux leather.

This means that vegan leather can be made from different materials - not all of them sustainable. Until a few years ago, vegan leather was made with almost completely plastic-based materials, called pleather (plastic leather). Ugh!

Don’t get me wrong - pleather was still a cheaper and more ethical and sustainable alternative than animal-based leather. But seeing how far we’ve come - there’s no need anymore to clog our earth with the production of more plastic!

Look at this list of fantastic plant-based, non-plastic alternatives to leather:
Pineapple leather (pinatex)
Flower leather
Banana leather
Grass leather
Coconut leather
Apple skin leather
Cactus leather
Corn leather
Cork leather
Leaves leather
Wood leather
Mushroom leather
Coffee leather
Recycled paper leather
Bioengineered yeast leather
Fungi leather

      Even though these leathers sometimes use a mix of polyurethane (a plastic-based resin), it’s a scant amount, and they still have a much lower impact than animal-based leather. 


      Is Vegan Leather Sustainable?

      Like we’ve said before, some vegan leathers are eco-friendly, but many aren’t. In any case, all types of vegan leather are more sustainable than animal leather - even pleather.

      The 2017 Global Fashion Industry Report concluded that animal leather is worse for the environment than any other material, including vegan leather.

      2017 Global Fashion Industry Report: animal leather is worse for the environment than vegan leather

      This is because, even though animal leather tends to be more durable and biodegradable, the environmental cost of raising cattle and producing leather is far more harmful.


      As for the vegan leathers, we can break them into 3 categories to assess its environmental impact:


      1. PVC leather: PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) is the world's third-most widely produced synthetic polymer of plastic. The manufacturing process releases harmful chemicals to our health. PVC is also not 100% recyclable or biodegradable - over time, it just breaks down and turns into microplastics.

      2. PU leather: Polyurethane leather typically requires fewer toxic chemicals in the manufacturing process. But it’s still not recyclable or biodegradable.

      3. Plant-based leather: This is, undoubtedly, the most ethical choice. The list of materials we included in the list above fits within this category. The base materials are natural and 100% biodegradable. 

      This is the best choice for the animals, the planet, and your own health - and even the best quality vegan leather.

      Besides choosing the materials well, don’t overlook the production methods when you’re purchasing vegan leather. Some companies that use plastic-free leather might still use production methods prejudicial to the environment and its workers. Always make sure you are buying from a truly ethical and sustainable brand.

      With Velvety, you don’t have to spend hours researching brands and the materials they use. All the brands we sell at Velvety are 100% ethical, vegan and sustainable. 



      Is Vegan Leather Durable?

      Are pineapple, cactus, apple leather and other vegan alternatives as durable as animal skin?

      They’re almost as durable. With proper care, plant-based leather products can last anywhere from two to five years, depending on the amount of wear and tear. This might not be quite the same length as animal leather, but when weighing the sustainability and animal suffering costs, most people find it a reasonable price to pay.

      Throughout the years, we’ve seen vegan leather improve drastically in terms of quality and durability. Plant-based leather is made by compressing layers of the base material, and then coating it in a durable, water-resistant outer layer, which makes it last a long time if well cared for. 

      How to Care for Vegan Leather 

      Different plant-based leather materials might need different ways to care. Usually, you’ll receive specific instructions when you buy a pair of vegan leather shoes or other accessories.

      Some brands recommend a vegan wax to ensure the longevity and suppleness of your vegan leather, while others might simply advocate for a wet cloth to remove any dirt. With proper care, plant-based leather should keep the original shine and flexibility for a long time. 


      Here are a few tips to keep vegan leather beautiful for years:


      1. Avoid drying vegan leather out. Some types will crack with excessive heat and exposure to the sun.

      2. Every six months (or when your leather looks dry), gently rub it with a small amount of leather conditioner or even baby oil, using a soft cloth. But first, test a small inconspicuous area to make sure the colour won’t be affected!

      3. Beware that some types of dye can transfer colour onto other materials. For example, dark wash jeans could discolour a light-coloured vegan leather bag.

      4. To clean plant-based leather, use a drop of gentle soap and lukewarm water. Rub gently with a soft cloth, then wipe the soap/water mixture off with a separate moist cloth.

        Are you Ready to Buy Plant-based Leather?

        Now that you know the most important things about plant-based leather, you can start your shopping! Discover our collections of fairly made vegan wallets for women, vegan leather handbags, leather wallets and vegan leather shoes.


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