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What Is Faux Leather Made Of?
Whereas real leather is usually made from cow skin (or sometimes kangaroo, pig, or even goat skin) that has been dyed and tanned, faux leather can be made from either synthetic materials like polyurethane or plant fibres like pineapple, apple, cork, coconut, and mushroom fibres. Back in the ‘60s, “pleather”, as it was called then, was made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride). These days though, PVC isn’t such a huge component of fake leather because it’s sticky and isn’t breathable.
Is It Better Than Ordinary Leather?
Now, here’s the tricky part. See, vegans and vegetarians get a lot of flak for their beliefs, and vegan leather has brought on a lot of that ire. Why? According to The Sydney Morning Herald, a lot of vegan leather is made with plastic materials like polyurethane (PU), which is sometimes produced using chemicals that are harmful to the environment. Another big issue with polyurethane is that it doesn’t biodegrade at nearly the same rate as regular leather. So while PU-based vegan leather may be more ethical, it isn’t exactly helping our planet!
Sadly, PU is still the leading material used in making vegan leather and can be found in everything from skirts to seat covers. A lot of big companies and animal rights organisations still use polyurethane-made vegan leather too, including PETA, which released vegan leather jackets made of PU in a collab with Coalition LA. Another PETA-recommended brand that uses PU is wallet brand Roandco. Similarly, companies like Zara and H&M also carry a lot of items made with PU.
But what about the plant fibre leathers? Thankfully, these types of faux leather are much better for the planet. Live Kindly praises pineapple fibre-based vegan leather Piñatex for not only being sustainable and ethical but for giving farmers another source of income. Meanwhile, mushroom leather MuSkin is tanned without the use of harmful chemicals.
7 Ethical And Sustainable Vegan Leather Brands
Products: Boots and sneakers
What they’re made of: Nae’s products are made with Piñatex, organic cotton, cork, and recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which is what most water bottles and food containers are made of.
Overview: Nae stands for “no animal exploitation”. This Portuguese brand is dedicated to creating footwear for everyday-use without causing harm to any animals or the environment. Ethical and comfortable, that’s what Nae is all about!
Products: Handbags and wallets
What they’re made of: Cork
Overview: According to their website, Eve Cork’s mission is to “create beautiful cork handbags that you will love while having a positive impact on both our environment and humankind”. As such, the brand uses high-quality cork sustainable harvested from Portugal, applies no harmful chemicals to their products, and ensures that each item is free from plastic.
Products: Wallets, belts, caps, and bags
What they’re made of: Cork
Overview: Similar to Eve Cork, Corkor is an ethical and sustainable brand that makes use of cork from Portugal. Corkor’s edge is that its products are handmade by local Portugues artisans. That means you aren’t just getting a wallet or a bag that’s vegan-approved, you’re getting something made with craftsmanship and love!
Products: Handbags and jewellery
What they’re made of: While most of their products are made with PU microfiber, they also sell apple peel leather bags like the Toni sling bag and cork leather bags like the Maya Mini bag.
Overview: Veggani stands out as a company that doesn’t just aim to save animals and the environment, but they also provide opportunities to artisans in low-income communities. Certain metal hard wares are created by artisans in Laos, where they recycle aluminium from war bombs.
Products: Handbags, shoes, wallets, dresses, skirts, belts
What they’re made of: While the brand still makes use of polyurethane, they have switched to more sustainable types. They also have products made from various sustainable materials like ECONYL, a kind of recycled plastic.
Overview: Perhaps the most well-known luxury vegan brand, Stella McCartney has made a long-time commitment against animal fur and leather.
Products: Anklets, armbands, bracelets, earrings, necklaces, phone cases, purses, wallets
What they’re made of: Inner tubes
Overview: Black Swan Bali turns discarded inner tubes into jewellery. Like Veggani, the brand employs Indonesian artisans and young mothers, providing them with work opportunities. The brand also contributes a portion of its profits to a free birthing clinic.
Products: Bags, purses, jewellery
What they’re made of: LaBante uses recycled polyester from broken down PET bottles.
Overview: LaBante is a luxury brand that specialises in ethically produced and eco-friendly bags. They also take pride in employing workers in humane working conditions.