Sustainability drives the narrative of the modern leathercrafting industry - both in terms of procurement of materials as well as the workflow practices involved in its manufacture. Technological advancements in recent times have seen the integration of sustainable and eco-friendly practices into the leathercrafting industry.
One of the most revolutionary developments that the leathercrafting industry has seen is that of vegan leather. Leather manufacturers have started to use leather made not of animal hide but with various materials, including plants, mushrooms, and sometimes even fish skin. Additionally, components like polyvinyl chloride and polyurethane go into making this sustainable leather. The production of handbags, belts, wallets and shoes commonly use this leather.
Today, we’ll go through the various aspects of vegan leather- what it is, how it is made, and how it has revolutionised the leathercrafting industry. We’ll also be addressing whether or not vegan leather is good for the environment or is it simply an oxymoron?
What is Vegan Leather?
As the name suggests, vegan leather is a leather-like material that doesn’t involve the use of animal hide in the production process. Vegan leather is also commonly referred to as faux leather, pleather, alternative leather, and synthetic leather.
Made primary from components like polyurethane (PU) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), vegan leather is a plant-based material that mimics the characteristics of animal hide leather. Recent advancements in technology have now made it possible to manufacture vegan leather using sustainable materials such as pineapple leaves, mushrooms, cork, apple peels, other fruit waste, and even recycled plastic.
How Is It Made?
Chemicals and industrial processes that are starkly different from animal-hide-based leather go into producing vegan leather. Bonding together a plastic coating to a fabric backing is the most common way to make faux leather; the types of plastic used in these coatings vary, and this is what defines whether or not it is eco-friendly.
One of the most commonly used plastics in the manufacture of vegan leather is PVC (polyvinyl chloride). Plasticisers such as phthalates and other oil-based polymers are also used, which impart the leather with flexibility.
What Is Used To Make Vegan Leather?
Vegan leather was manufactured even back in the 1960s, and 1970s using methodologies that differ from the practices used today. Thus, this leather categorises into the old-fashioned synthetic vegan leather, also known as faux leather and the more recently developed vegan leather, made from organic and natural ingredients.
Until recently, plastic-based materials such as ployurethane (PU) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) made up all vegan leather. However, over the past few years, developments in technology have enabled the manufacture of this leather using less of these plastic-based resins and more plant-based materials like pineapples, cactus leaves and flowers.
Is Vegan Leather Good For The Environment
The subject that whether or not vegan leather is good for the environment, has always witnessed divided opinions. But as a matter of fact, a mixture of plastics and other plant-based resins and not animal hide make up vegan leather as a material. However, the toxins present in these plastics may be detrimental to our health. The manufacture and disposal of PVC-based synthetics let out hazardous dioxins. This can cause developmental and reproductive issues and even cause cancer.
Another aspect of vegan leather is the fact that its manufacturing process is less taxing on the environment as compared to animal-hide based leather. Turning animal hide into leather takes many resources and generates a brew of chemicals in the process- including mineral salts, coal-tar derivatives, formaldehyde, oils, and dyes.
Additionally, raising animals (typically cows) for leather requires large amounts of land, water, and feed. The animals emit methane into the atmosphere. And the excrement from cattle ranches and factory farms pollutes the nearby waterways, soil, and air. This becomes a public health risk for people who live nearby.
So yes, vegan leather too has its drawbacks. But it’s definitely a more sustainable alternative to animal hide-based leather in a holistic view of things.
We couldn't have thought of turning waste products and plastics into leather fabrics that ooze elegance. Yet today, it has become commonplace in the leather industry of the UK.
Vegan leather is becoming hugely popular due to the more sustainable alternative it provides compared to animal-based leather. There are a lot of places in the UK, where you can purchase vegan leather accessories and products. Thus, by choosing to buy a vegan product, you make a conscious decision towards the betterment of the environment. Plus make a great fashion statement.
Moving ahead, it’s high time businesses start addressing sustainability.
Adidas is the second-largest activewear brand in the world. And it's also making a conscious move towards a more sustainable future by using less plastic and animal-based materials. That's our inspiration right there! Similarly, given the detrimental effects of today’s manufacturing practices on the environment, sustainable leather is a must for the fashion industry going forward.