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16 April 2017

7 Vegan Alternatives to Real Leather

Hopefully, it’s no secret to you by now that leather is the skin of a living, breathing, feeling animal. The leather is often made from the skin of cows, but it is also taken from slaughtered pigs, sheep, goats, alligators and kangaroos; even cats and dogs in China are murdered for their skin. Yes, you read correctly. When you buy a leather good, you could be wearing the skin of a beloved dog. While there is growing criticism for wearing real fur or eating dogs during the Chinese Yulin Dog Meat Festival, many of those same people are still supporting animal cruelty by buying their favourite leather handbags and shoes.


Leather is Cruel

Leather is typically sourced from countries such as India and China whose animal welfare laws are less strict or simply nonexistent. And contrary to popular belief, leather is not just a convenient and efficient byproduct of the meat industry. In fact, it is the most economically important byproduct, worth 10 per cent of the cow’s total value. Leather is also extremely taxing on the environment. Aside from its connection to the meat and dairy industries, which are among the top three contributors to climate change, the leather tanning process is highly toxic and destructive to the planet.

Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals


Toxic Effects on Human Health and the Environment

How does the skin of a dead animal not decay? The skin has to go through a tanning process which stabilises the protein fibres so that they stop bio-degrading. Most leather is tanned using chromium, which produces hazardous-classified waste according to the Environmental Protection Agency, not to mention a range of other chemicals like lead, cyanide, formaldehyde and arsenic. Workers in tanneries and residents in surrounding areas are exposed to a range of health threats, including cancer.

Thankfully, there are a lot of vegan alternatives to leather on the market nowadays, making it easy to purchase cruelty-free and sustainable fashion. Plus, there are endless possibilities for styling cute vegan outfits, so there’s no excuse to keep buying real leather. On ALIVE Boutique, we feature a range of fashionable vegan leather goods, but did you know there are also many other vegan alternatives besides faux leather?


7 Vegan Alternatives to Real Leather


1. PVC

Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is essentially pure plastic. However, the production and disposal processes are toxic to the environment. The material is also usually not recyclable due to added lead and cadmium. While it doesn’t involve killing a living animal, PVC is extremely harmful to the environment and health according to Greenpeace. Fortunately, PVC is not commonly used anymore for producing vegan leather.


2. Recycled Polyurethane

Polyurethane (PU) is a standard material for faux leather these days. While it is still derived from fossil fuels, PU is recyclable and can be used for power generation. Plus, the newest generations are not ony vegan but even biodegradable in some conditions because they are coated in vegetable-based plastic. In terms of wear, PU is a much more breathable option than PVC, so you don’t have to worry about sweaty feet!

Matt and Nat


3. MuSkin

This incredible vegan leather alternative is made from mushrooms and tanned with non-toxic ingredients. Made in Italy, MuSkin is so soft that it feels similar to suede leather. VeLove and Luckynelly currently use MuSkin for some of their products. The material is even available for order in three sizes if you are keen on making your own accessories. It’s truly amazing what you can do with vegan materials like a fungus!



4. Piñatex

Ananas Anam has developed Piñatex, which is a natural textile whose fibres are made from the by-product of pineapple harvesting in the Philippines. This means that no extra resources are used for its production. The outstanding material is resistant to abrasion, water spotting and even ignition by cigarettes. A number of brands already sell products made from Piñatex, including Nae Shoes, Vegatar and Muso Koroni. Later this April, Bourgeois Boheme is presenting The Pineapple Room, a pop-up shop in London introducing their new Piñatex Vegan Shoe collection. Make sure to check it out!

Photo and bags by SmithMatthias, 2014 / SmithMatthias



5. Repurposed Rubber

Rubber from tires and other industrial waste can actually be reused and repurposed for fashion accessories. This is a good option for a long lasting vegan leather alternative since rubber is an extremely durable material. Try Alchemy Goods and MeDusa Bags



6. Flexible Stone

Did you ever think you could make a fabric-like material from stone? Well, Villani Leonello Stone Technology created flexible stone from extremely thin rock and a fleece made from cellulose fibres. Luckynelly has a line of sewn stone vegan bowties.



7. Cork

Cork is a soft yet durable material, which is why it is a common vegan alternative to leather. Some cork accessories embrace their earthy aesthetic and look like cork, such as products from Corkor and Corature. For those who want something that looks less like cork and more like leather, Rok Cork has an extensive collection of vegan sustainable handbags.

Rok Cork

As you can see, there are so many materials that are currently used as vegan alternatives to real leather. Thanks to modern-day technology, innovators are coming up with more and more alternative options. Not only are they cruelty-free, but they’re also more environmentally-conscious and sustainable. It’s amazing what you can make with natural materials that don't involve killing and robbing animals of their skin. With so many vegan fashion products out there, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t commit to a cruelty-free lifestyle and wardrobe.

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