Vegan Leather – Everything You Need To Know (In 2020)

Mandy Meyer

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In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know about vegan leather.

To start with, you’ll learn the definition and origin of ‘vegan leather’ concept.

We’ll then look at different types of vegan leather to see why “not all vegan leather is equal”.

You’ll learn what vegan leather is made of, how it smells, and how it looks.

We’ll then compare it with animal leather, the good and the bad parts.

In the end, I’ll introduce you to some of the best designers creating with vegan leather and their amazing products.

Without further ado… what is vegan leather?


Vegan Leather Definition

Nowadays, the term ‘vegan leather’ is used to describe all material alternatives to animal-based leather that look, feel, and have the same attributes of leather but are not made from animal skin.

I said “nowadays” because our understanding of vegan leather continues to change as we create new materials.

What Is Vegan Leather Made Out Of?

The general category of ‘vegan leather’ can be broken down into two:

  1. Synthetic vegan leather.
  2. Natural vegan leather.
Vegan leather is also made from natural materials such as pineapple leaves, apple peels and mushrooms

Before you buy, remember: “Not all vegan leather is made equal” – WTVOX.

1. Synthetic leather is made from petroleum-based materials.

It was one of the first attempts at making cheaper alternatives to animal leather.

Most popular synthetic vegan leather is made either from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane (PU).

Synthetic types of ‘leather’ are also called Faux leather (faux=fake) or Pleather (plastic leather).

Given its construct, synthetic leather is detrimental to the environment.

2. Natural vegan leather made ONLY from organic matter, such as fruits byproducts or mushrooms.

Sustainable vegan leather made form organic mater such as pineapple leaves, apple peels or even mushrooms

Always look for modern vegan leather, made from organic materials.

As a material, natural vegan leather is a product of the last ten years of research.

Also part of the general ‘vegan leather’ consensus, these materials are made ONLY from organic materials such as:

Mushrooms, cactus, algae (kelp), orange and apple peels, pineapple leaves (pinatex), cork, barkcloth, and even paper.

Moreover, when compared to synthetic leather, natural vegan leather is sustainable and has better quality.

Vegan Leather vs Animal Leather

vegan leather vs animal leather

Apple leather vs animal leather. Purity vs cruelty, what’s your choice?

There are several benefits that make vegan leather preferable over animal leather:

  1. Vegan leather is cruelty-free and animal friendly.
    No animals are sacrificed in the process of making vegan leather.
  2. Most vegan leather is sustainable and environmentally friendly.
    ‘Most’ because PU and PVC leather is not sustainable.
  3. Vegan leather can be made to order.
    For that, there’s no material wastage as all parts and sizes are cut according to the designer’s needs.
  4. Lesser CO2 and greenhouse emissions than animal leather.
    Rising animals is one of the main sources of pollution and CO2 emission.
  5. Lesser toxic chemicals are used.
    Toxic chemicals are used to ‘tan and finish’ animal skin into the material we call leather.
  6. Vegan leather is waterproof and easier to maintain.
    Not all animal leather is waterproof. Moreover, maintenance can be expensive.

Is Vegan Leather Good For The Environment?

The answer depends on which types of vegan leather we’re referring to:

Synthetic or natural?

Synthetic leather is ‘vegan friendly’ in the sense that no animal parts are used in the manufacturing process.

However, most faux leather is not eco-friendly.

Faux leather is bad for the environment according to BBC expert

“Consumers don’t know what polyester, acrylic or nylon are so everything that’s made of plastic should be labelled as plastic” – Patrick Grant owner of Savile Row tailor Norton & Sons.

On the other hand vegan leather made from organic matter, is both, cruelty-free and sustainable.

For that, vegan leather made from organic matter is better than both, animal-based and synthetic leather.

The manufacturing and disposal of both, animal and synthetic vegan leather, are hazardous processes for humans and the environment.

Faux leather vs Animal Leather

Animal leather tannery vs vegan leather manufacturing machine.

The manufacturing and tanning of animal leather require large amounts of toxic chemicals.

These chemicals pollute the environment and destroy flora and fauna.

Similarly, the disposal of synthetic leather results in the release of hazardous chemicals in the air, such as phthalates and dioxins.

These toxic fumes are dangerous to humans and animals, known to cause serious developmental and reproductive problems.

Leather environmental pollution

The problem with animal leather tanneries is more serious than previously imagined.

In comparison, vegan leather made from organic matter is fully BIODEGRADABLE and SUSTAINABLE.

Products made from this type of vegan leather disintegrate without any negative impact on people’s health, animals or the environment.

Harvesting pineapple leaves to produce Pinatex vegan leather

Local harvesting discarded pineapple leaves – that can be used to make Pinatex, a natural vegan leather.

Moreover, natural vegan leather can be cut to order, and hence, eliminate material waste.

Is Vegan Leather Better Than Animal Leather?

When comparing vegan leather with animal leather, quality and durability always come first.

Because both are made in the lab, synthetic and natural vegan leather can be made lighter, thinner, and more durable than animal leather.

Pinatex production process

Sheets of Pinatex cut according to the designer’s need.

These attributes make vegan leather great for fashion, as it is easier to work with.

However, compared to leather and natural vegan leather, the synthetic (faux) leather tends to wear out unattractively.

On the other hand, both leather and natural vegan leather tend to age beautifully as, over time, a patina is formed adding extra character to the product.

Vegan Leather Durability

The durability of vegan leather varies according to the MATERIALS USED in the manufacturing process.

In general, synthetic leather is less durable when compared to animal leather.

Faux leather low quality

Synthetic vegan leather breaking down.

In time, PU and PVC leather tend to acquire scratches or crack.

On the other hand, natural vegan leather has similar durability to animal-based leather.

Pinatex vegan leather quality

Altiir Biker Jacket made from ‘Pinatex’, a natural leather extracted from pineapple leaves.

  • First, natural vegan leather lasts longer and does not crack or scratch with ease.
  • Second, just like animal leather, in time takes the same beautiful patina, which provides further character and personality to the product.

What Does Vegan Leather Smell Like?

Synthetic vegan leather – made from PVC or PU – has an artificial smell of plastic and chemicals.

While the smell tends to wear off with time, it could be masked faster with special polishing creams.

However, there’s always the danger of ruining the material.

On the other hand, natural vegan leather smells similar to the matter used to make it.

For example, apple leather has a subtle smell of green apples.

Pineapple leather does not have a smell and mushroom leather tends to smell like leather.

Compared with synthetic and animal leather, vegan leather made from organic matter can be imbued with any desired smells.

What Does Vegan Leather Look Like?

In general, good quality vegan leather can’t be distinguished from real leather.

But, depending on the materials used, these materials have different levels of quality and textures.

For example, synthetic vegan leather does not form patina like leather.

Synthetic leather

Synthetic leather made from PU, with printed pores to emulate the look of animal-based leather.

Also, the pores you see on synthetic vegan leather are not real but printed.

Because of that, the breathability of the material is reduced.

On the other hand, vegan leather from organic matter has pores and looks just like leather.

Sustainable Vegan leather made of apple, pineapple, cork and mushroom

Top 4 types of vegan leather right now: leather from apple skins, mycelium, cork, and pineapple leaves.

Moreover, as it is made from organic matters which contains fibres and real pores, the breathability is similar to leather.

These Are Best Brands To Shop Vegan Leather Fashion From

Time to check out some of the best vegan fashion designers right now.

Here you’ll find anything made from vegan leather, from jacket to bags and shoes, and other vegan leather wardrobe-essentials.

Vegan Leather Jackets, Coats and Tops

1. Sarah Regensburger – Vegan leather suit.

Sarah Regensburger is a German-born, London-based fashion designer with superb vegan leather creations.

Sarah’s exquisite creations bring back the concept of laidback luxury in stunning amalgamations of traditions with present-day concepts.

Her impressive vegan leather pieces – spurred by the world’s diversity of cultures – are compelling stories of our tribal origins and return to mother nature.

3. Nanushka – Vegan puffer jacket.

Nanushka has splendid vegan leather jackets that project a rare blend of Eastern with Western culture.

Designed in Budapest and produced in Europe, Nanushka’s vegan leather jackets will fill you up with effervescent confidence and subtle femininity.

2. Julia Allert – Vegan blazer and skirt.

Julia Allert is a high-end designer label hailing from Moldova driven by the ‘break the rules’ slogan and with a ‘slow fashion’ agenda.

Julia’s vegan jackets are pure interpretations of a tumultuous and fascinating past, able to shatter typical fashion patterns, aiming to symbolise the strong woman who plays by her own rules.

4. Martin Appelt – Vegan cropped jacket.

As an innovative designer label of German origin, Martin Appelt’s dynamic heritage is beautifully highlighted in his unmatched attention to detail and elaborate production techniques.

We love Martin’s apple vegan leather jackets for their playful, bold, and joyfully ironic designs.

Influenced by a blend of pop-culture and current socio-environmental issues, Martin Appelt’s unconventional jackets are imbued with symbolic elements and original prints.

Each creation refers to the entrenched pop-culture, offering not only a unique look but the guarantee to stand out with every occasion.

5. Each x Other – Vegan trench.

Each X Other is the place where art and fashion interlace, where artwork and fashion collection hold common inspirational ground, not just a physical location.

More than a brand, Each X Other creates vegan luxury pieces with savoir-faire and unmatched excellence.

Each X Other’s limited-edition pieces are complex plays around the concept of androgyny, seeking to end the male/female stereotypes in fashion.

Vegan Leather Bags, Handbags and Backpacks

1. Ahimsa collective – Vegan clutch.

Ahimsa Collective creates superb handbags out of existing resources, would-be-waste and innovative plant-based textiles.

Imbued with excellent design and artistic flair, the label’s vegan leather bags have become the must-have of conscious luxury lovers from all over the world.

Moreover, the label’s vegan bags are perfect examples of luxury, animal love, and sustainability coexistence.

2. Adelaide Carta – Mini vegan handbag.

Defined by unique prints, bold colours, and exclusive artistry, Adelaide Carta vegan handbags are superb amalgams of vibrant Sardinian history.

Hand-made by local artisans, Adelaide’s vegan leather bags made from cork blend aesthetic with style without compromising animals and nature but instead augmenting and improving them.

3. Osier – Vegan shoulder bag.

Osier is a conscious designer label with fascinating vegan stories to tell.

Beyond the sharp and tailored expressions of modern hedonism instilled with ingredients of ethical flavours, there is an artistic soul hidden in each Osier vegan handbag.

Osier’s handbags are complex blends of cultural treasures.

Each bag conveys an imaginary exploration of Amsterdam via cinematic art galleries, romantic streets, free-spirit festivals, picturesque canal streets, antique boutiques, restaurants and patio cafes.

4. Gunas – Large vegan handbag.

Winner of MACY’s ‘Best Retail Handbag Award by an Independent Designer’ and residing in New York City, Gunas is an independent high-end vegan label.

Gunas vegan leather handbags range from totes, satchels, cross-body bags, wallets and even backpacks, all designed to suit every need, mood, and lifestyle.

5. Livin the MAD Life – Customised vintage vegan bag.

Raising from the ever-sunny beaches of Miami, Florida, ‘Livin’ The MAD Life’ is a contemporary luxury label that welds symbols of self-love, courage and peace, in immaculate vegan leather vintage bags.

The designers behind the brand hand-pick vintage bags and customise them to empower modern, powerful, and conscious women.

Vegan Leather Shoes

1. Balluta Shoes – Vegan mules.

Balluta’s vegan shoes are pure statements of sophistication and opulence, imbued with an adventurous, timeless, and hypnotic spirit of extravagance.

Mystical fragrances for the soul, Balluta’s ethical, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free shoes are beautifully made from a gorgeous blend of vegan materials and local craftsmanship, redefining the essence of conscious fashion.

2. Blanlac – Vgena heeled sandals.

As a modern luxury label rising from Luxembourg, Blanlac’s signature pieces are inspired by the overgrown gardens of northern Italy, with refreshing bouquets of elegance and understated fragrance.

Blanlac’s shoes bring to life the crisp notes of Luxembourgish rigour beautifully blended with the uplifting nuances of high Italian craftsmanship and unmatched refinement.

3. Zoey Simone – Vegan boots.

As a luxury vegan label, Zoey Simone embodies compassion, style, and quality.

The designer conveys a unique concept of vegan shoes that embraces not only animals’ well-being but also respect for people and the planet, as paramount elements of a conscious lifestyle.

Zoey Simone’s elegant vegan shoes are made by multi-generational, expert shoemakers who value traditional craftsmanship, reinforcing designer’s commitment to a slow fashion approach.

4. Rungg Shoes – Vegan slippers.

With mythological emblems of ancient-old Asian history beautifully embroidered with exceptional artisanal techniques, Rungg’s vegan shoes depict a brighter and happier tomorrow.

Descendants of a long-lost world of forgotten shamanic tribes, Rungg’s luxury vegan slippers come in unparalleled blends of colours and textures, as treasures of nature and the human soul.

5. Kweder – Vegan heels.

Kweder is a high-end Italian designer label characterised by original and colourful designs depicting the glamourous Sicilian lifestyle and culture.

Inspired by the natural beauty of the island and its mythological past, the brand’s vegan shoes come alive under the spell of breathtaking scenes of mountains and sea-views.

Moreover, every single piece is traditionally made by local master artisans.

Now it’s your turn…

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  1. Thank you for your hard work investigating in-depth, Vegan Leather! Your piece was not only informative, easy reading but well written in such a concise manner! Something that most with very little time can quickly process! Mahalo Nui Loa

  2. Chrisdella

    10 April 2020

    Everybody is wrong about vegan leather, even PETA. So true, I was too until I’ve found this article. Thanks, WTVOX! Everything makes a lot of sense now!

  3. Avatar

    Rosemary Silk

    26 April 2020