In modern times, there are increasing concerns about the welfare of animals and more and more people are opting towards a lifestyle of veganism. True veganism doesn't relate to diet alone. By definition, a vegan does not support the use of any type of animal product. Since genuine leather is made from the hides of animals, the topic of leather becomes a controversy as it relates to veganism.
To meet the evolving demands of the customer, luxury handbag manufacturers are adapting to this changing market and have begun offering leather alternatives, known as faux or vegan leather, that do not use any animal products whatsoever.
However, the debate over whether or not faux leather can match the quality and durability of genuine leather continues. Read on to learn more about what faux leather is and how it compares to genuine leather.
What is Faux Leather?
Also known as vegan leather, faux leather is essentially any type of leather that is made without animal products. This kind of leather is, by definition, less harmful to animals than genuine leather. When it comes to quality, the method of manufacturing will determine if it can match genuine leather. Vegan leather and genuine leather can ultimately have a similar texture and feel, and high quality manufacturers can easily fool those that do not have a keen eye.
Because the faux leather market can get complex quickly, let’s take a look at the different types of faux leather available on the market today:
Polyurethane leather (PU), also known as "pleather" is one of the most common types of faux leathers. It is the most versatile and can be easily turned into a variety of colors. It can also be produced sustainably depending on how it’s produced. The big difference between PU and real leather is that it lacks the patina (the deep, aged look that natural leather takes on overtime), a trait admired by lovers of real leather.
Polyvinyl Chloride Leather (PVC). PVC is found in many plastic items around your home such as flooring, plastic furniture, piping, etc. Much like PU, PVC is manufactured using a bonding technique of applying a thin layer of the plastic on top of a layer of fabric, which is then textured in some way. Similar to PU, it can also be produced sustainably depending on the manufacturer.
Apple Leather. As the name suggests, apple leather is made from leftover apple waste following the production of apple juice. The waste is dried and ground into a powder, which is then mixed with pigments to achieve the desired color. This method of leather production does achieve a beautiful textured pattern and is more sustainable as it reuses waste that would otherwise be thrown out. Unfortunately, the longevity of apple leather is not fully known, and finding apple leather products is difficult.
MuSkin, a 100% vegetable leather. Primarily made from the caps of mushrooms that grow in subtropical forests, MuSkin is completely free of toxic substances, making it more ideal for any uses that would keep it in close contact with your skin. It has a look and feel that more closely resembles suede and is waterproof in its natural form. Like apple leather, it is not widely produced and its longevity is still unknown.
Pineapple Leather, called Piñatex, is derived from pineapple leaf fiber. Like apple leather, it is also made from harvesting and repurposing waste; however, it requires a thin layer of polyurethane to be applied as a protective coating.
Is Faux Leather Good for the Environment?
It may or may not be, depending on how it was made and the materials used. For example, while SENREVE’s faux leathers are all sustainably sourced and produced, other manufacturers may elect to go cheaper routes that sacrifice sustainability for lower manufacturing costs.
The Controversy of Real Leather
Genuine leather is manufactured from animal skin, meaning that some people find it to be a controversial topic. Leather is primarily made through a process called tanning, which uses the hide of an animal (usually cow or sheep). Most leather manufacturers, however, actually create leather as a byproduct of meat manufacturing, meaning that more of the animal is actually being put to good use versus simply being discarded. That said, those who find genuine leather to be a topic of controversy often take issue with the meat industry in general.
Vegan Leather Versus Real Leather
Vegan leather is any material that resembles animal leather, but without using any animal products. Real leather, on the other hand, is produced from the tanned hides of an animal. There are many types of synthetic materials used in vegan leather to help resemble that of normal leather, and the manufacturing processes can vary depending on that material.
In general, high quality vegan leather can boast durability and beauty, especially when treated and finished with a protective stain resistant layer. As mentioned, this does depend on the manufacturer and the quality standards used.
Advantages of Genuine Leather
- It’s extremely durable and will last a lifetime when properly taken care of.
- It’s flexible, meaning it can be used for a wide variety of products, including belts, shoes, handbags and furniture.
- It’s diverse in that every piece of leather maintains the original imperfections of the animal that helped make it. When it comes to genuine leather, no two products will ever look exactly the same.
- It's breathable, which is important when it comes to leather products that are worn, such as jackets or pants.
- It’s stylish and timeless. Leather rarely goes out of style. A leather jacket can last a lifetime, even through updated trends.
- It's natural and biodegradable. Leather will biodegrade in as little as 10 years when put into the ground, which is why some people line potted plants with scraps of old leather.
- It’s easy to care for and requires a simple cleaning every so often to keep it looking impeccable.
- It has a desirable smell. If you’ve ever gotten into a brand new car that has a leather interior, you know what we mean. The smell of genuine leather is unlike anything else.
Whether you find yourself leaning toward vegan leather or genuine leather, SENREVE has both materials for you to choose from, in different styles, colors, and variations. Explore our collections for yourself today, or keep reading for a little more info on some differences between the two.
How to Tell the Difference
Genuine leather, though sometimes treated, is still made from a natural material, and it retains that quality even after the manufacturing process.
It’s breathable and flexible. The synthetic material of faux leather is often much more rigid and doesn’t have the same level of “give.”
Additionally, genuine leather is soft, and will actually get softer with time. Faux leather will not.
Depending on the product, natural leather and vegan leather may cost the same price. Natural leather production involves a specific and unique set of skills and craftsmanship, meaning that the highest quality genuine leather products are actually not produced in mass. Because of this, genuine leather is often thought of as more exclusive overall. However, vegan leather production can parallel this when sustainably sourced and produced, which requires a different yet unique set of skills and craftsmanship as well.
Perhaps the most obvious difference between faux and genuine leather is the way it feels. In modern times, there are some faux leather manufacturing processes that are becoming increasingly skilled at replicating the feel of genuine leather, as noted above. Additionally, both real leather and faux leather can be treated with a stain and durability coating, changing the texture of the product to feel smooth.
The pros and cons comparison between faux and genuine leather can be a long list. At the end of the day, your personal set of values and desires are what’s most important to determining whether or not genuine leather is “better.”
If by better, you mean something that is just a little more durable and has that classic leather look, then a genuine option is most likely best for you.
If you want something that is free of animal products but can still bring a luxurious look, a faux option is your best bet.
In either case, be sure to do your research up front and understand what qualities are the most important to you.