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What Is Vegan Leather?

Vegan leather offers a cruelty-free alternative to traditional leather, crafted from plant-based or synthetic materials. It mirrors leather's aesthetic while aligning with ethical and environmental values. As fashion evolves, vegan leather is at the forefront of sustainable innovation. Wondering how it compares in durability and style? Join us as we explore the future of conscious fashion with vegan leather.
R. Bargar
R. Bargar

For people who love the look and functionality of leather but are committed to a lifestyle prohibiting the use of animal products, vegan leather is an appropriate choice. Clothing, shoes, and fashion accessories made of artificial leather are produced and marketed as animal-friendly options. Upholstery, travel bags, laptop cases and other products can also be made using leather alternatives. This material is produced from synthetics without using any animal products and is also referred to as faux or artificial leather. There is no difference between most artificial and vegan leathers except for terminology.

Cruelty-free vegan clothing requires an artificial leather that is pliable and breathable. Early artificial products designed primarily for upholstery usually did not have these qualities. Additionally, some of the early formulations used animal leather powder with binders and were therefore not vegan. The most common modern forms are produced using synthetic materials sourced from petroleum. A variety of plastics and synthetic microfibers are used in the production of the various types of artificial leather.

Textured brown vegan leather.
Textured brown vegan leather.

One common type is made from a base of fabric coated with polyvinyl chloride (PVC). People concerned about the environment as well as animal welfare tend to avoid this form of synthetic leather, as it is not as environmentally friendly as other varieties. Polyurethane leather uses a different manufacturing process and is viewed as less harmful to the environment. This type of vegan leather is softer and more pliable than PVC-based leather, making it more comfortable to wear. Still other leathers are made using microfiber, a thin diameter polyester or nylon fiber.

Vegan leather can look indistinguishable from the real thing.
Vegan leather can look indistinguishable from the real thing.

Not all vegan leather is made completely from synthetic materials. Some is made from sustainably harvested cork, which may be combined with synthetic materials to make it more pliable and durable. Ocean leather is another form, and it produced from plant sources. Kelp or seaweed is used in the manufacture of this type of artificial leather. Neither of these leathers are as common as those made from petroleum products.

Vegan leather is suitable for a variety of purposes.
Vegan leather is suitable for a variety of purposes.

Many types of faux leather are visually indistinguishable from real leather and are used to produce coats, jackets, handbags, and shoes. Additionally, household products, such as upholstered furniture and accessories, are manufactured and marketed for those who avoid the use of animal products. Some vegans question whether faux leather is the best choice when there are natural fiber products that do not resemble leather available. They are also concerned about whether choosing artificial leather may encourage the wearing of real leather products.

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Discussion Comments


I don't think this is very clear. PU is a material that has leather in it, I think.

If something is a form of plastic, why not call it by its name? After all vegan leather is an oxymoron.


So it's plastic. Call it what it is. Just call it what it is.


Does no one understand the impact of using petroleum? I guess we should just let all our domestic animals die of old age and bury them in landfills. In millions of years they might be petroleum too.


Animal lovers: Fake leather and fake fur still promotes the leather and fur industry! When people see you walking around in a beautiful fake fur coat or in gorgeous 'vegan leather' boots, it just encourages them to start shopping for fur coats and leather boots.

Better to walk around in clothes that are obviously and blatantly not made of fur or leather. Try cotton and wool!


In my day it was called pleather. We are the superior race. Just own it already.


Regarding any other thoughts about furniture or other products made from the pain and abuse of animals and their skin, as a vegan, I'm not asking anyone to get rid of something they already have.

I'm just asking everyone to make an informed decision going forward and know the facts, then decide if you must have the longest-lasting product or if sparing an animal's untenable suffering is the only reason you need to make a change.

Please don't believe the false propaganda spread by the greedy profit-mongering sycophants who will continue to make money on the backs of innocent animals without any concern for the torture they endure.


@anon330554: You are not a vegan. I have never seen such a transparent justification for having an animal-leather couch.


I'm a vegan and I always make sure to buy cruelty free, animal free products. I understand that vegan leather isn't always eco-friendly, but some do no harm to the environment and those are the ones that I choose to wear. The only real leather product I own is a leather couch. I didn't plan on buying it, but now that I have it, it is very durable and lasts a long time which I think is more efficient and environmentally friendly than having to buy multiple vegan leather couches and wasting resources.


I am not a vegan, but have several friends who are, and know this can be a pretty passionate topic. I have found much of the vegan clothing they purchase has a very nice look and feel to it.

If they feel better about buying products like this, I don't have any problem with it. I haven't purchased any vegan leather for myself, but wouldn't have any hesitation about doing so.

I have a really nice leather couch that I have no intention of getting rid of. While I wouldn't go out of my way to buy vegan leather, if it lasts as long as the real thing I think it would at least be worth looking into.


I have a friend who is vegan and will not wear or buy anything made with real leather. She is very serious about this and will go out of her way to make sure she is not purchasing any kind of animal product.

She has vegan boots and a vegan leather jacket that she proudly wears and likes to explain to people the advantages of purchasing vegan leather.

I don't fully share her views and have some leather shoes and a leather purse that I am not ready to give up yet.

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    • Textured brown vegan leather.
      By: Stocksnapper
      Textured brown vegan leather.
    • Vegan leather can look indistinguishable from the real thing.
      By: Eky Chan
      Vegan leather can look indistinguishable from the real thing.
    • Vegan leather is suitable for a variety of purposes.
      By: Eky Chan
      Vegan leather is suitable for a variety of purposes.
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      A bag made out of vegan leather.