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29 May 2020

What is Vegan Leather and Why Should You Be Wearing It?

Veganism is on the rise! And over the last few years, the vegan leather industry is now flourishing as a result. 

So, what is vegan leather, and why is it becoming so popular? 
Vegan leather is a broad term for new materials that mimic the texture and feel of animal leather. Vegan leather can be just as durable as animal leather. But it has a less negative impact on animals, our planet, workers, and their communities. 



In this article, we explore the world of vegan leather to discover what all the fuss is about.


What is Vegan Leather?

Will vegan leather take over from animal leather? 

Is it eco-friendly? 

Is it a viable option for consumers? Let's find out.


What is Vegan Leather?

Vegan leather is a broad term for new materials that mimic the texture and feel of animal leather. These materials can include:

  • PVC
  • PU
  • Cork
  • Paper
  • Lorica
  • Waxed cotton
  • Recycled rubber
  • Recycled ocean plastic
  • Orange and apple skins 
  • Pineapple leaves
  • Paper
  • Mushrooms
  • Tree bark
  • Cactus
  • Flexible stone
  • Ligneah

Companies are experimenting with new ways to create leather using non-animal materials. In recent years, there has been a sudden increase in the production of vegan leather.


Vegan Leather Shoes


Fashion designers such as Stella McCartney have helped to make vegan leather accessible. 

Even Tesla has joined in! Recently announcing that its new Model 3 cars will have a vegan leather interior option.

The most commonly used materials for vegan leather include PVC and PU. They have both been around for over a decade under the name "pleather".

Both PVC and PU are useful for creating quality vegan leather. However, PU is considered much better for the environment.

PU is created by coating a layer of Polyurethane onto fabric, such as cotton or polyester.

PU is preferred over PVC because it is more breathable, flexible, durable, and more eco-friendly. When PU is produced, it does not require the fillers, lubricants and plasticisers used to create PVC.

For these reasons, PU is considered to be better quality and more eco-friendly than PVC. But, both PVC and PU take a long time to degrade naturally.

This has led fashion brands to seek more natural materials. Cork, fruit skins, and even kelp are now being used to create vegan leather.


What is the Quality of Vegan Leather Like? 

This really depends on the type of vegan leather you buy. The most common material, PVC, tends to be low quality and lack durability.


Black vegan leather handbag


However, the quality of PU and innovative natural materials will surprise you.


PU is a soft and durable vegan leather that is most popular among vegan leather brands. While not the best material for the environment, it is ultra-strong. A PU leather product will last you a very long time.


Mushroom leather is also incredibly strong. It's also flexible, and by far the most durable vegan leather out there. It looks and feels great!

Pinatex (made from pineapple leaves) is also a high-quality vegan leather option.

Pinatex has been flourishing since its release. The material is so versatile and can mimic animal leather incredibly well.

This has led to The Original Satchel Store in the UK to ditch animal leather altogether!

Apple skin leather is also making headlines. Pamela Anderson's new range of handbags, for example, only uses this innovative material.

Paper is also proving to be a high-quality material for vegan leather. 

Bottega Veneta launched their gorgeous new handbag made entirely from special paper pulp!

The quality of vegan leather is improving by the day. Fashion houses continue to innovate with new materials. And a whole new leather industry is being born as a result.

The future of vegan leather looks very bright indeed.


What's The Difference Between Real Leather and Vegan Leather?

Real leather is made using animal hides. Vegan leather can be made using a range of non-animal materials. These can be natural or synthetic materials.


animal leather vs vegan leather


Vegan leather is attempting to move away from the damaging leather industry. 

Vegan brands want to move away from the use of animals for leather. They also recognise the immense environmental destruction of the animal leather industry.

In terms of the looks and feel, it really depends on the vegan leather material you buy. 

But some materials such as mushroom, pinatex, and cork can feel like real leather. You will hardly notice a difference (apart from the smell!).

The durability of vegan leather is also dependent on the material you buy. Mushroom leather is considered to be very robust, whereas PVC usually has a shorter life.


Are Faux Leather and Vegan Leather the Same?

Faux leather is the name usually reserved for PVC and PU leather. These alternative leather materials have been around for a while. Many people refer to them as "Pleather". 


A woman and a man with Vegan Leather jackets


Faux leather jackets have been hugely popular for the last decade.

Faux leather falls under the term "Vegan Leather" because it's not made from animals. 

Vegan leather tends to cover more natural and eco-friendly leather alternatives.

Many brands that create faux leather goods are now moving towards vegan leathers. 

Vegan leathers have much less impact on the planet. Whereas, faux leather is made using plastics derived from petroleum.

Is Vegan Leather Good for the Environment?

Generally, vegan leather is much more eco-friendly than real leather. 


young tree in a hand


Most vegan leather companies are using natural materials. Some of which are natural by-products of other industries.

Vegan leathers can use up to 70% fewer carbon emissions compared to real leather. Raising an animal is incredibly resource-intensive. 

The tanning process for leather is also heavy on resources and energy.


What Are the Best Vegan Leathers Available to Buy?


It feels like new vegan leather materials are being released each week. But what are the best vegan leathers available right now?


PU (Polyurethane)

PU is the most popular vegan leather in use right now. It is created by coating a layer of Polyurethane onto fabric, such as cotton or polyester.


Girl wearing vegan handbag made of PU vegan leather

Not to be confused with PVC, PU is an environmentally friendlier vegan leather. It is more breathable, flexible and durable than PVC.

You will find that most vegan brands use PU to create their vegan leather. It’s ultra-versatile and often looks and feels just like regular leather.

PU leather is 100% artificial and vegan. You will find some of the top vegan brands in the world, utilising PU. Including LaBante London, INYATI, Matt & Nat, Watson & Wolfe and Vegetarian Shoes (they’re vegan don’t worry!). 


Pinatex (Pineapple Leather)


Pinatex is made from the fibre of the pineapple plant. This is a natural by-product from the pineapple industry, making great use of waste. 


Pinatex vegan leather watch


Pinatex is patented by the company Ananas-Anam.

Pinatex is considered to be top sustainable material. It also helps to boost the profitability of farming communities around the world. 

The pineapple leaves are stripped of their fibre and "degummed." This is turned into a woven mesh, which is then processed into a leather-like material.

Pineapple leather is strong, flexible, and versatile. It even feels very much like real leather. Pinatex is now being used by top brands such as Hugo Boss, Votch, Po-Zu, and Nae.


Mushroom Leather


Mushroom leather is quickly becoming the number one choice for vegan leather. 


Mushroom vegan leather handbag


Why? It feels just like leather (a bit like suede), is durable and even waterproof. Making it perfect for vegan leather handbags and vegan backpacks.

The official name of mushroom leather is "Muskin." It's made from the caps of mushrooms known as phellinus ellipsoideus. 

The fungus is extracted and processed naturally, which helps limit the environmental impact.

MyCoworks is the company that has been leading the way in mushroom leather. This year MyCoWorks raised $17 million.

This sum will help to meet the high demand for their excellent mushroom leather products.



is a versatile and incredibly useful eco-material in the construction industry. 


Cork vegan leather handbag for men


Cork is light, water-resistant, and highly durable. It is an organic material and now set to take over the vegan leather industry.

The cork material is easily recycled and highly sustainable. The cultivation of cork can help prevent deforestation and desertification around the world.

It is considered to be one of the most sustainable materials on the planet.

Cork is made from a layer of the cork trees bark. 

The tree does not need to be chopped down. It is air-dried for six months, then it is boiled and steamed to improve elasticity. Heat and pressure help to form the cork into blocks. 

Cork is now being used by luxury brands such as Chanel and Louboutin. You will also find several small eco-friendly brands using cork. Examples include FABRIKK, Bag Affair and Cork Lane. 


Is Vegan Leather More Expensive?

Vegan leather is not much different from real leather when it comes to price. 

You can find vegan leather pieces at all different costs. If you buy from luxury brands, then the price will be much higher. 

If you're buying faux leather made from PVC or PU, the price can be much lower than real leather. 

When buying one of the new innovative vegan leathers, you may pay a lot more. 

This is simply because they are new materials that are very popular right now.

In the future, the price of vegan leather will likely fall. As demand increases and production is streamlined.


Final Thoughts

The end of animal leather is in sight. 

There are now so many great cruelty-free and eco-friendly alternatives to leather. It's now difficult to see a future for real leather in fashion or any other industry.

If you're interested in vegan leather, then give it a go. 

Vegan leather is a great eco-friendly alternative to real leather. We think you will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of vegan leather products.


Vegan Leather on Alive Boutique

We currently stock several brands that use innovative vegan leather materials at ALIVE.

Vegan leather watches from Votch use Pinatex (pineapple leather) material. 

Vegan backpacks and vegan handbags from LaBante use recycled vegetable materials and PU. The interiors are created with reclaimed plastic bottles.

Men's vegan shoes from Wills Vegan Shoes are crafted from plants using bio-oil. The crops come from organic cereal crops.

You can find our full range of vegan leather goods on our Alive Boutique Store.

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