True leather will never be vegan – but as leather substitutes go, many are very damaging to environment and contain high levels of toxins that are both released during manufacturing and at the end of the articles life when it finds its way to a landfill. Today there are many sustainable, Eco-friendly alternatives to leather that we wanted to showcase. Purse for the People is creating prototypes containing some of these same materials which will be tested for durability and suitability for our beautiful handbags. So stay tuned and read on!
Popular Synthetic Vegan Leather Materials
- Lorica – another synthetic microfiber material that is popular in the sports footwear industry.
- Kydex – an acrylic-PVC acrylic-polyvinyl chloride alloy. Waterproof and scratch-resistant.
- Leatherette is a form of artificial leather, usually made by covering a fabric base with plastic. The fabric can be made of a natural or a synthetic fibre which is then covered with a soft PVC layer.
As you can see, all of these vegan leather materials are man made fibers must go through arduous chemical processes in order to be made into fabrics. This is why it’s important to note that “vegan” isn’t not necessarily synonymous with “sustainable”. These examples above are vegan materials that are harmful to the environment while not necessarily directly harmful to animals.
Natural Vegan Leather Options
If you want materials that are both vegan AND sustainable, there are some choice options for you to choose from.
- Cork – this is taken directly from the wood of the cork oak tree. Lean cork shavings are combined to make a fabric sometimes called “cork skin.” Cork material is known for its soft texture and is naturally waterproof.
- Barkcloth – this material is found within Moraceae tree bark. The leather-like material is striped and shaped, used as a softer leather alternative.
- Cotton canvas – while cotton may not be what you first think of when you look for leather alternatives, cotton canvas is shiny, stretched and buffed, greatly resembling genuine leather.
- Paper – obviously biodegradable, paper is sustainable but not exactly leather-like. However, cardboard massaged with natural oils to soften it and backed with canvas is extremely close to the real thing.
- Dinamica – this material is a type of faux suede made from 100% recycled PET. You often see it used in the automotive and furniture industries. Manufacturing this material requires 60% less carbon emissions than conventional polyester fabrics.
- Pinatex – made from the waste of pineapple leaves
- Okinawa – plant and wood based leather substitute products fabricated and developed in Italy
- Ultrasuede- Toray Ultrasuede’s Comprising 100 percent reconstituted post-industrial material
- Stella McCartney – has developed her own PVC free leather substitute.
- Ocean leather: a leather made from kelp
These are all more sustainable options as compared to the toxic processes required to make most popular vegan leathers. All in all, be leery of exchanging one unfriendly product for another. When you’re looking for sustainable leather alternatives, don’t immediately just look for something vegan. You may end up buying something as toxic as real leather. IKES!