Vegan leather, also known as faux leather, is an alternative leather material that does not use animal skin. Most fashion enthusiasts prefer to consider it a great substitute for real leather.
Manufacturing vegan leather requires a lot of materials. It includes plastic, which is synthetic, while natural materials include cork. Speaking of this, the most popular choices when it comes to plastic-based materials are polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane (PU). Interestingly, another name for vegan leather is a pleather. This term stems from the words ‘plastic leather’.
What does it look like?
Vegan leather, or pleather, comes in numerous forms and qualities. While some are more leather-like, others may not be. Generally, there is not much difference between vegan leather and real leather, assuming that we are talking about top-notch quality leather.
However, vegan leather is less breathable, considering the pores on the surface are all artificial. Moreover, when real leather ages, it forms a patina that vegan leather does not.
How is vegan leather being made?
Similar to how real leather is made from different animals' hides, vegan leather is made of non-animal materials.
Let's explore a few of them and see how they are made.
Vegan leather from polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC or vinyl
This one, by far, is the most popular choice. It is a pocket-friendly and innovative plastic compound that proves to be the best substitute material when it comes to making vegan leather.
Plasticizers are chemicals used to soften PVC. To put it in perspective, it is a mixture of alcohol and acids amongst numerous other components.
PVC comprises of 57% chloride and 43% carbon.
Vegan leather from polyurethane, also known as PU
A plastic, it is another common material to make vegan leather. Adhesives are added to polyester fabrics to make PU. Similar to PVC; it is a combination of petroleum compounds and plastic chemicals.
PU bears more resemblance to real leather. Moreover, it uses fewer layers as compared to PVC. As a result, it is softer and bends easily. Also, it is more expensive than PVC.
Vegan leather from Piñatex
An alternative leather product, pinatex, comes from the wastage of pineapple plants, primarily the leaves. The leaves are piled and kept to rot naturally or are burned down. Pinatex is one of the most sustainable substitutes for real leather.
The pineapple leaves are stripped down through a process called decortication. Thereon, the fibers are transformed into a meshwork, making up vegan leather. The end product is of the most exceptional quality and looks premium.
Vegan leather from cork
Derived from the bark of Cork Oak Trees, workers take the bark off the trees to make cork sheets. When they are dried as a result of their natural fluids, they are taken to the factories. The sheets are then boiled to break down the structure. This gives it a shape.
After they dry out, they are made into thin sheets. These sheets are laminated to fabric, followed by a protection spray to make it more durable. This is how you get cork leather!
Hope you've learned a bit more about vegan leather!