What is Vegan Leather?

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  1. I don’t really have much views on the environmental impact of clothing (the way I see it is that it would be great if all clothes were made from recycled plastic, that would definitely help the environment) but I personally see leather and suede the same as fur and have always tried to abstain from it the best I can. I remember when I was younger, I used to go round sniffing chairs before I sat on them to try and see if they were made from leather or not! I couldn’t even read the “process” here of what happens to make leather, the images it created in my mind was just so awful it broke my heart. I remember my mum years ago said that she didn’t want to go vegetarian when she was wearing leather because it felt like she was being a hypocrite although I am very glad that there are now more vegan leathers to choose from than they were years ago mind you, finding shoes for my father that are a wide/big enough size and vegan friendly today is still a challenge but wow, I had no idea there were so many different types of vegan leather!! Blimey and I am most grateful to you for your insights and knowledge about each type here too! Thank you.

  2. Your breakdown of the leather process is very presumptuous. No animal is specifically killed for its leather. It’s a by product of the meat industry. Animals are killed for meat, the skin is sold to various specialist to process it before it piles high or has to be discarded. Not to mention its completely biodegradable and safe for the planet. Until meat is heavily discouraged, there will be mountains of leather for the whole planet to use. I am a financial vegetarian. I won’t let my money finance unethical practices, a boycott is all the power we have to fight and win 100% of the time without getting arrested or shut down online. Answer me this? If a Vegan was selling their old leather products, could a vegan then buy them? There’s no support for the meat industry there, just community support.

    1. I think he addressed this pretty clearly. If you kill an animal and you make money from both the meat and the skin, then supporting the leather industry increases the commercial viability of the meat industry. Also there are animals whether the leather is the primary reason they are killed, and the most valuable part of the carcass, including kangaroos, crocodiles, snakes, etc.

      You are right, a boycott is all the power we have, so boycotting leather products which reduces the demand for those animals killed for their skins, and also makes the meat industry less profitable seems like the ethical thing to do. Why wouldn’t you seek out these emerging plant based leather alternatives instead?

  3. As Karen said, about the automotive industry, I know that Mazda MX-30 has used cork as the center console material, MINI STRIP more extensive use of cork as the main material, and Volvo also use, I think cork material and cork leather will be a development direction of the automotive industry, because HZCork and Chinese and Japanese car companies respectively to discuss the design of cork in the car.

  4. We were looking at the Kia EV6 electric car as the steering wheel is vegan-leather, but we’ve seen that the same model has suede upholstery!

  5. Very helpful post, thank you.

    I’m a non-vegan who is trying nonetheless to integrate more vegan food and products into my life.

    As a consumer, the comfort/breathability/stretchiness of real leather has always been a selling point. Are you able to elaborate on which of the leather alternatives are breathable/stretchable in leather-like ways?

    I suppose if I was doing this as table (love tables), I’d list each leather and score it for fossil fuels inputs | longevity | comfort | stretchability.

  6. Wow I am kind of embarassed to admit I thought the vegan leather is only the pvc/pu. Which I knew essentially is kind of plastic and was always against it! I am not vegan but I am very much against the mass consumption and always thought I’d rather pay more for genuine leather pair of boots which I will wear for years and years rather than go for a cheap alternative which is not biodegradable and normally doesn’t last as long. I clearly needed to educate myself better! Thank you for all this information!

    1. No need to be embarrassed. We were very much in the same boat. We’re appreciative that you’re open and hopefully, now you may be able to try some of the sustainable and cruelty-free alternatives 🙂

  7. Hi, that’s a very insightful piece. I was wondering when we buy handbags, wallets etc, when the tag mentions material: PU. Should I assume that’s vegan leather or not? no seller mentions it very clearly as 100 % PU, so was wondering whether it might be artificial leather or not?



    1. Great question! Normally when analysing labels, PU would mean that it’s artificial. We’ve found that brands usually break down what percentage is PU and what percentage is leather. But if it’s unclear, and you like the product, it may be worth reaching out to the brand directly. We’re glad you found this post helpful.

  8. christine williams says:

    great ideas for a more sustainable world!

  9. Hi Amy, sorry, I just saw your comment. That’s going to come down to the material used for vegan leather. We recently published a post with our recommended ethical and sustainable clothing brands. Perhaps check out some of the links and see what the washing instructions are for the garments you’re interested in.

  10. Thank you for this information! It was really interesting to read. I live the eco-friendly lifestyle and I don’t think that vegan leather is environmentally-friendly.

    1. No problem, Joshua. Would you mind elaborating on why you don’t think vegan leather is environmentally-friendly? I certainly agree that the plastic-based materials are harmful, but what about the other alternatives mentioned in this post?

  11. Laura Nogueira says:

    This article was really interesting for me. I am Portuguese and regarding the leather made from cork I was already aware, since we have plenty of products, as for the other innovative ways of producing leather I had no idea. It was very informative! Keep doing your great job. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Laura! It was fascinating to learn about cork production in Portugal. So many positive things are happening over there!

  12. This is the most difficult part for me as I have hard to fit short wide feet. I spent over $100 USD on a lovely pair of Beyond Skin pumps, hoping they would stretch a little, but they hurt my feet terribly. I’ve purchased several youth non-leather shoes and boots. They wear out much more quickly, so I have decided that every other year, I will allow myself to purchase one gently used leather dress shoes or boots. Vegan leather shoemakers need to get off their high horse-less egos and make shoes in more than one width as vegans’ feet are not all medium width. Thanks for letting me rant on this!

    1. Hi Rhea, you’re always welcome to rant here 🙂 I too have wide flat feet. So I can relate. It was a challenge to find shoes before I was vegan, but it’s even harder now. We just need to be patient.

  13. Excellent article, this is so helpful thank you very much. And great to see cork coming back into its many possible uses. It literally grows on trees. I grew up amongst beautiful cork forests in Portugal and they are a key part of the local ecosystem.

    1. Thank you Luis, I’m glad you found this post helpful. It’s so lovely to hear about your experience in Portugal. I would love to one day visit a cork forest.