What Is Vegan Leather Made Out Of? PU Leather Guide For 2023

What is vegan leather?

Veganism and Leather

When most people think about veganism, their mind immediately goes to animal-free dietary choices. However, veganism is much more than choosing a diet free of animal products.

Veganism is best described as a lifestyle. Vegans not only adhere to a cruelty-free diet that is completely free of all animal products, but they also follow a way of living that excludes all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty.

Unfortunately, many types of clothing involve harming animals. One of the worst offenders is the leather industry. Essentially, leather is a material made from the tanned skins of animals. Leather is not only a cruel material, it is the antithesis of veganism.

PETA estimates that more than a billion cows, pigs, goats, sheep, alligators, ostriches, kangaroos, and other animals are slaughtered yearly for their skins.

There is also a misconception that animal leathers are just a byproduct of the meat industry. In reality, not only is leather made from animal skins, the animals are often killed just for their hides.

As if animal cruelty was not enough, the leather-making process also requires massive amounts of dangerous chemicals and dyes.

The waste produced by leather tanners can contaminate groundwater, rivers, lakes, and soil. Even animals not killed directly by the leather industry can suffer from the pollution and contaminants the industry generates.

Even though it is cruel to make and wear, the popularity of leather in the fashion industry is not doubted. To say that leather jackets are popular is a massive understatement. Not only are leather jackets, bags, and purses currently in fashion, their popularity has stood the test of time.

If They Are Cruel, Why Are Leather Jackets and Purses So Popular?

If They Are Cruel, Why Are Leather Jackets and Purses So Popular

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Vintage Style: Leather jackets are popular partly because they give the wearer a classic look. In varying degrees, leather jackets have been fashionable since the 1930s. Their classic, timeless style means purchasing a leather jacket can be an outerwear investment that is unlikely to go out of style.

Practicality: As temperatures become cooler, leather jackets become a practical outerwear choice. Leather is a heavy textile that is well-insulated and capable of keeping the wearer warm.

Versatility: Leather jackets can be worn year-round. While their insulating properties make leather jackets useful in the colder months, they can also be worn as an accessory during warmer months.

Durability: Leather jackets are extremely durable. They can be worn for years without showing significant wear. Some believe leather jackets look better with age. A well-worn leather jacket can be a stylish and comfortable piece of clothing.

So, Is It Possible for Vegans to Wear Leather?

Even though leather is an inherently cruel material, you might think it still has that aesthetically pleasing vintage look and other practical benefits. Luckily, there is a vegan-friendly alternative to animal-sourced leather!

Not only can vegan leather look good on you, but it will also make you feel good because it is completely cruelty-free. Vegan leather gives you all the fashion benefits without contributing to the incredibly cruel animal leather industry.

What Is Vegan Leather?

What Is Vegan Leather

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As with almost every animal derived-product, there is a vegan-friendly alternative on the market today.

Vegan leather has been around for quite some time. In the past, it has been known as faux leather, or more colloquially pleather. Originally, faux leathers were used as an inexpensive substitute for animal leathers.

While faux leather owed its original popularity to its much cheaper prices, there were other benefits.

Artificial leathers do not use animal skins, so they are infinitely less cruel to make. They are also much lighter than real leather and do not decompose over time, as some real leathers can.

What Is Vegan Leather Usually Made Of?

There are a wide variety of materials that can be used to make vegan and faux leathers. Everything from synthetic materials, like various plastics, to more natural materials, such as cork, can be used.

The most common materials used when creating vegan leathers are polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane (PU), two types of plastic.

PVC and PU-based vegan leathers differ in their structures. PVC uses more layers under the external coating, making it tougher and more durable.

PVC is designed to withstand harsher weather conditions. On the other hand, PU uses far fewer layers, making it more flexible and comfortable. PU-based faux leathers can even wrinkle and stain like natural leathers.

What Is Vegan Leather Usually Made Of

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PVC and PU based vegan leathers are the two most popular types of vegan leather, and each type has its advantages and disadvantages. For starters, PVC leather tends to be more breathable than vegan leathers made from PU.

This is because PVC leathers almost always use a foam layer underneath the surface. As mentioned above, PVC-based vegan leathers are far more resilient to harsh conditions. Given the fact that PVC is more durable and breathable, you will find it is often the preferred type of vegan leather for wearable clothing items.

However, PU-based vegan leathers have micro-pores on their surfaces, giving them a more realistic look than PVC leathers. Not only do these pores make PU leathers far less weatherproof, but it also makes them susceptible to absorbing unwanted stains, smells, and particles.

While PVC and PU-based faux leathers are the most common and popular, there are vegan leathers made from more innovative and sustainable materials.

As you will read below, vegan leather manufacturers have even begun using pineapple leaves, cork, fruit peels, and recycled plastics to create imitation leathers that are more environmentally friendly than leathers made from synthetics.

How Is Vegan Leather Made?

There are several ways to make vegan leather, but the most common types of vegan leathers involve a synthetic plastic coating being bonded to a fabric backing.

While synthetics do not directly harm animals, it is worth noting that some plastics can be environmentally damaging when they are created.

This means that you should not purchase synthetic leather products casually. Make sure when you buy a vegan leather product, it is something that you will get use of.

How Is Vegan Leather Made

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That being said, there is a movement within the vegan leather industry to improve manufacturing techniques and develop less harmful materials. The overall aim is to make vegan leathers that are less harmful to the environment.

Remember, veganism is a lifestyle, not just a diet. Even if a product is not derived from animals, you should still remain conscious of how that product could harm animals and the environment.

Which Type of Synthetic, Vegan-Friendly Leather Is Better?

When choosing between the two main types of vegan leather, you have to ask yourself some questions. Is it more important that your vegan leather looks, feels, and behaves like real leather, or do you value its functionality and performance more?

Unquestionably, PVC-based vegan leathers are more durable and breathable. Oppositely, PU based vegan leathers can be fragile, but they have the same pliability and flexibility as real leather.

Essentially, if the item needs to look like and feel like real leather, you should choose a PU based leather. If you want the item to last, you should choose a PVC based product.

Either way, synthetic leathers are a great choice for vegans. They are a perfect substitute for natural leather. They come with realistic natural leather-like finishes and are vegan-friendly, cruelty-free, and tend to cost far less.

Non-Plastic Vegan Leathers

Non-Plastic Vegan Leathers

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While traditional faux leathers made from PVC and PU synthetics are completely vegan-friendly, there is a movement to create animal-free leathers that are also environmentally conscious.

These newer vegan leathers use renewable resources and plant-based materials in their construction.

While there is nothing wrong with purchasing plastic-based vegan leathers, you might want to keep an eye out for some of the more contemporary vegan leathers listed below.

Piñatex Vegan Leather

Essentially, Piñatex is made from the stripped-down leaves of the pineapple plant. The remaining plant fibers are converted into a mesh material reminiscent of traditional leather.

The best part about Piñatex vegan leathers is they are completely eco-friendly. Not only is the material made from renewable pineapple leaves, but more often than not, the leaves would have been plant waste anyways.

The pineapples are already being grown for human consumption, so the unused leaves would have otherwise gone to waste. Additionally, the bio-material that remains behind after the leaves have been stripped can be used as fertilizer.

In terms of appearance, Piñatex products mimic the look of real leather quite well. Where some plastic-based vegan leathers have a surface that is too smooth to pass for real leather, Piñatex’s naturally wrinkled appearance is quite convincing.

The matte finish and wrinkled exterior make Piñatex the perfect vegan leather choice for handbags, backpacks, wallets, and other non-wearable items.

Cork Vegan Leather

Cork Vegan Leather

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Cork leather is derived from the bark of cork oak trees grown around the Mediterranean Sea. The same material that is used to cork European wines can be used to create a convincing vegan leather.

Essentially, the cork is harvested in long sheets that are then completely dried. Once dry, the cork sheets are boiled until they become more pliable. The cork sheets are then dried again and shaved into even thinner sheets.

These thin cork sheets are laminated with sealants and then sprayed with fabric protection sprays to make them more durable. The result is an incredibly durable yet lightweight material that looks and feels like real leather.

As with leathers derived from pineapple leaves, cork-based vegan leathers are sustainable. Cork can be harvested without harming the tree, or any other plants and animals.

Cork leather is also used to create vegan-friendly handbags, wallets, and bags. It also is a perfect material for making vegan leather shoes, luggage, and upholstery. The cork leather naturally looks distressed and worn, which is exactly what you want with a vegan leather item.

Wine-Based Vegan Leather

Yeah, you read that right, wine leather. Wine leather, also known as grape leather, is vegan leather made from a byproduct of wine production.

Essentially, the grapes’ seeds, skins, and cores are combined with various chemicals. The result is a leather-like textile that is completely cruelty-free and environmentally friendly.

Wine leather has an attractive color and feel that is perfect for fashion accessories. International clothing retailer H&M already plans to unveil a line of wine leather items that should interest vegans.

Mushroom-Based Vegan Leather

Mushroom-Based Vegan Leather

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Mushroom leather is made from the roots of mushrooms. Mushroom roots are referred to as mycelium, and manufacturers have found a way to turn the mycelium cells into durable vegan leather.

Mushroom leather is so strong that it might be capable of replacing some of the plastic-based vegan leathers. Not only is mushroom leather strong, but it is also completely waterproof.

Mushroom leather is also completely sustainable. Fungi are naturally easy to grow and require fewer resources than other crops. Mushroom leather is biodegradable, making it even more environmentally friendly than other vegan leathers.

Mushroom leather can be used to create a wide variety of vegan-friendly products. The durable properties of mushroom leather mean it is the perfect material for making shoes, watchstraps, wallets, bags, and even belts.

Other Types of Vegan Leather

People are increasingly becoming aware of the inherent cruelty of natural leather. More people want to replace their leather items with cruelty-free leather alternatives that do not use animal skins. This is stimulating a great deal of innovation when it comes to vegan leathers.

In addition to the types of vegan leather mentioned above, many plant and plastic-based leathers are on the market today. The number of leather alternatives will continue to grow.

Paper, waxed cotton, tree bark, hemp, kombucha, and teak leaf vegan leathers continue to grow in popularity.

While there is still a massive market for animal-derived leather, vegan leathers are becoming increasingly popular even amongst non-vegans.

How Do You Make Sure Vegan Leather Lasts?

How Do You Make Sure Vegan Leather Lasts

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As mentioned previously, if you care about animal welfare, you will likely also want to reduce your overall environmental impact. One of the best ways you can do so is to take care of the items you purchase so they can last longer.

Luckily, vegan leathers almost always have one of the above-mentioned plastic coatings. This means they are usually waterproof. Where real leather can be extremely difficult to clean, you can easily clean vegan leathers using a mild detergent or damp cloth.

You will want to keep your vegan leather products out of the sun as much as possible. They can become susceptible to cracking with too much sun exposure.

However, there are a few products on the market that will give the plastic surface of most vegan leather products a protective layer.

Repairing Vegan Leather

As with any material, vegan leather is susceptible to rips and tears. If your vegan leather item is damaged, you can always make repairs by purchasing a faux leather repair kit.

These repair kits are compatible with almost any type of vegan leather and are really easy to use.

Can You Remove Wrinkles in Vegan Leather?

One of the most common complaints with vegan leathers is how prone they are to wrinkling. While certain vegan leather materials, such as polyurethane, are less likely to wrinkle, it still remains a common problem with vegan leather products.

Can You Remove Wrinkles in Vegan Leather

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You mustn’t try to remove wrinkles from vegan leather by using a heated iron directly on the material. Due to the fact that most vegan leathers use plastics, they can melt when exposed to extreme heat.

While some of the more expensive, high-quality vegan leathers can be steamed to remove unwanted wrinkles, this should always be done with a barrier. Be sure to place a towel, sheet, or protective surface between the vegan leather surface and the steamer or iron.

Never expose vegan leather to heat for more than 30 seconds at a time.

You can also avoid wrinkles from developing in your vegan leather garments by making sure they are always hung up in a closet using a hanger. Avoid folding vegan leather if you want to avoid wrinkles.

Can You Soften Vegan Leather?

One of the reasons people like natural leather so much is it can look and feel better as the material becomes distressed over time.

Unfortunately, vegan leathers are far less permeable than real leather, so leather-conditioning products will not soften vegan leathers. Most leather conditioning products will damage vegan leather.

Can You Soften Vegan Leather

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However, there is still hope. Vinyl conditioner will work to soften vegan leathers that have a plastic surface. To ensure you do not overdo it and damage your vegan leather, apply the vinyl conditioner to a soft cloth and work it into the vegan leather in small circular motions.

After you have done this, make sure you remove any extra vinyl conditioner with a clean, damp cloth.

After this stage, you can leave the vegan leather product dry. Once dry, if you are not satisfied with the results, you can repeat the process until the item looks and feels how you want it to.

What Can Be Made Out of Vegan Leather?

As with natural leather, vegan leather can be used to make various fashionable items. Everything from vegan leather jackets to vegan leather handbags is available today.

Vegan Leather Handbags

Vegan leather handbags can be made from a variety of different vegan leathers. While plastic-based synthetic leathers are the most commonly used materials, you can purchase handbags in a variety of other faux leather fabrics.

Everything from recycled rubbers, plant derived vegan leathers, and waxed cotton leathers can be used to create handbags that look just like leather bags made from the real thing.

Vegan leather handbags are available in countless colors and shapes. No matter what your personal style is, you should be able to find a vegan leather bag that compliments your outfit.

Vegan Leather Handbags

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Another benefit of a vegan leather handbag over a natural leather bag is that almost all vegan leather bags are waterproof. You do not have to worry about water damage to your bag if you find yourself caught in the rain.

Vegan leather handbags tend to come in one of two types. The first are handbags that try to imitate the look and feel of real leather by using a convincing substitute.

These types of bags try to imitate the real thing. The second type of vegan-friendly handbag is those that do not worry about feeling like real leather and instead just try to mimic the look and color of real leather.

These bags are often made from canvas, cork, cotton, or hemp. They look like animal leather from a distance, but when you touch them, it is obviously a cruelty-free alternative.

Vegan Leather Jackets

Vegan leather jackets tend to be made from plastic materials, such as PVC and PU. In the past, synthetic, faux leather jackets looked nothing like the real thing. Instead, faux leather jackets tended to look like cheap imitations.

Nowadays, new technologies and manufacturing techniques have allowed vegan leather jackets to have a look and feel that closely matches real leather. Not only do modern faux leather jackets look great, but they are also easier to clean and care for than natural leather jackets.

Vegan leather jackets offer the perfect combination of form and function. Not only do vegan jackets look great, the wide variety of materials means they can be made in an almost limitless number of styles.

Vegan Leather Jackets

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Lightweight vegan leather jackets can be worn comfortably over the top of a light outfit during the warmer months. In comparison, thicker and more durable vegan leather jackets can be worn during winter weather. Unlike real leather jackets, most vegan leather jackets will not be damaged by rain and snow.

Another selling point for vegan leather jackets is their affordability. Where a real leather jacket can cost a fortune, vegan leather jackets are available at a wide variety of price points.

Lower prices mean that vegans can even choose to purchase several jackets in different styles to compliment their outfits during any season.

Vegans who want to compliment their wardrobe by adding the look of leather to their outfits can now do so without compromising their vegan values.

In fact, achieving the perfect look with a vegan leather jacket has never been easier. Not only are there a wide variety of vegan leather materials available, but you can also choose a jacket in almost any style imaginable.

  • Vegan Leather Motorcycle Jackets: Use asymmetrical cuts to replicate the timeless look of a classic motorcycle jacket. Not only do these look great, but they can also offer practical benefits for motorcycle riders by offering protection from the cold and rain.
  • Vegan Leather Blazer Style Jackets: These jackets have a professional look that can add a faux leather accent to an outfit that is suitable for wear in most office environments. These jackets are cut to contour the body in the same ways as a traditional blazer.
  • Faux Leather Trench Coat Jackets: These jackets offer a traditional look that has stood the test of time. The added length can also keep you warm and dry during colder months.
Faux Leather Collarless Jackets

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  • Faux Leather Collarless Jackets: These streamlined jackets are versatile. They can be matched to most outfits and can be worn throughout the year. They are lightweight enough to be worn on most occasions without becoming too heavy or warm.

Vegan leather jackets are unquestionably the most popular vegan leather item purchased today. Vegans and non-vegans are discovering the benefits of these versatile, fashionable, and practical outerwear pieces.

Other Vegan Leather Products

While vegan leather jackets and handbags might be the most popular items on the market, there are plenty of other stylish accessories you can purchase. Not only are these items completely cruelty-free, they look great and are made from sustainable vegan leather.

  • Vegan Leather Wallets: There are a wide variety of vegan leather wallets available today. Most vegan leather wallets are made from renewable, recyclable, vegan-approved, environmentally friendly materials. Vegan leather wallets derived from cork offer some unique benefits. For starters, unlike real leather, they are completely waterproof. They have smooth interior surfaces, making inserting and removing cards and bills easier.
  • Vegan Leather Notebooks and Journals: Leather notebooks have been around forever. Leather covers have traditionally offered a stylish way to protect your writing; however, like any leather product, real leather notebooks are made with a cruel material. On the other hand, vegan leather notebooks and journals offer a vegan-friendly solution to your writing needs. Consider looking at vegan leather notebooks that are made from recycled rubber. The covers and straps have the appearance of real black leather; however, they are made from a repurposed waste material. This means they are cruelty-free and prevent a non-biodegradable material from ending up in a landfill.
Vegan Leather Belts

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  • Vegan Leather Belts: Vegan-friendly leather belts offer a durable, strong, flexible, and comfortable alternative to traditional leather belts. A high-quality vegan leather belt looks indistinguishable from a real leather belt but does not harm any animals when it is being made. Again, cork leather offers vegans a perfect solution to their belt needs. Vegan cork leather belts look great and will not split and crack like other vegan leather belts. They are sure to last long and are great for both formal occasions and everyday wear.
  • Vegan Leather Shoes and Boots: Vegan leather footwear can be made in an almost limitless number of styles and are available in a wide variety of vegan leather materials. Leather shoes have traditionally been a symbol of sophistication and style, but they come at the cost of harming innocent animals. Vegan leather footwear offers the perfect solution. Now you can wear a stylish piece of footwear indistinguishable from luxurious designer footwear. Most vegan leather shoes and boots will combine various vegan-friendly materials. For example, you might find a shoe that uses natural rubber and cork for the sole and durable plastic-based vegan leather for the exterior of the shoe.
  • Vegan Leather Backpacks: Vegan leather backpacks are made from various cruelty-free materials. Not only do they look fashionable, they are practical for a variety of reasons. They tend to be water-resistant and are durable enough to withstand daily use. This makes them perfect for work, travel, and school. While most vegan leather backpacks are made from vegan-friendly synthetic plastics, you can find eye-catching vegan-friendly backpacks made from cork and wine leather.

Vegan Leather Informational Videos

Below you will find some useful videos about vegan leather. If you are interested in purchasing some vegan leather products, you should know that plenty of information and resources will help you make the right choice!

Remember, you are voting with your wallet by choosing to purchase a vegan leather product over cruel animal leather products.

The more popular vegan leathers become, the less harm the leather industry can do to the animal world. Get informed and spread the word to your vegan and non-vegan friends.

As mentioned previously, if you can afford it, you should always opt for higher-quality vegan leather products.

Even though vegan leathers do not harm animals directly, cheaper vegan leather products can still harm the environment when they are being manufactured and disposed of.

What Is Vegan Leather Made Of?

Sustainable Fashion – Vegan Leather vs Real Leather

Fashion Designs Made From Pineapples

The Mylo Driver Bag Features the World’s First Mushroom Based Leather!

Cork – The Eco Friendly Alternative to Leather

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