WHAT IS VEGAN LEATHER?
Vegan leather is a leather-like material not made with animal skin that can be synthetic, plant-based or lab-grown.
Synthetic leather usually consists of a textile backing coated with two or more synthetic polymer layers, traditionally polyvinyl chloride (PVC, vinyl) or polyurethane (PU).
The plant-based versions are similar to their synthetic counterpart, but natural components replace some synthetic materials. For example, part (or all) of the PVC/PU coating can be replaced by biobased products.
Lab-grown vegan leather uses new technologies to create a material by growing its cells in a laboratory, for example, growing fungal cells into mushroom roots (or mycelium) or collagen (the main protein found in leather) from yeast.
WHY IS VEGAN LEATHER BECOMING MORE AND MORE POPULAR?
With the growing focus on sustainability in the fashion industry, the popularity of leather substitutes is rising by the day.
Although a completely different product, vegan leather often imitates the appearance of genuine leather and is the choice for brands that want to keep a leather feel without using animal derivatives. Also materials with a completely different look, such as cork fabric, are generally defined as vegan leather and are becoming very popular in the fashion industry.
IS VEGAN LEATHER REALLY SUSTAINABLE?
Vegan does not always mean sustainable.
Whether vegan leather is sustainable mainly depends on the materials used to manufacture it.
From an environmental point of view, fossil-fuel-based materials are not considered biodegradable, while plant-based materials are (but you need to consider additional materials used in their production, such as adhesives, dyes etc., that may not be).
It is important to note that many modern plant-based faux leathers still feature carbon fossil PU components (in some cases, recycled). However, modern leather alternatives are more sustainable nowadays than in the past.
To verify the material’s sustainability, you should always investigate the composition, the provenance of the raw materials used and the environmental compliance of the fabrication processes.
A trusted manufacturer should be able to give you this information and provide you with one or more certifications of compliance.