• Thu, Jul 26 2007

What IS Vegan Leather Anyway?

A lot of the products I feature here — especially bags and shoes — are made out of “vegan leather”. While vegan leather is an animal-friendly alternative to real leather, it can mean several different materials.

vegan leather jacket

(This jacket is completely animal free!)

Vegan leathers include:

  • Vegetan: This is a microfibre material that is specifically designed and used as an animal-friendly leather substitute.
  • Lorica: This material is made out of several different microfibers. Sidi, an Italian motorcycle company uses it a lot.
  • Birko-Flor: This is what eco-icon Birkenstock uses. It’s made out of acrylic and polyamide felt fibres. There are two kinds — the kind you find on normal Birks and a kind that looks like pleather.
  • Birkibuc: Another Birkenstock baby. It’s made out of the same stuff, but looks and feels like nubuck leather.
  • PVC: Finally, a term you should be familiar with! Good for animals. Not so good for environment.
  • Kydex: This is an acrylic-PVC alloy. It’s produce by Kleerdex, a manufacturing company.

I hoped this helped! Also, remember that being animal-friendly does not necessarily mean you are being eco-friendly. Using old and recycled leather could be better for the environment than buying a brand spankin’ new vegan-friendly bag. It just depends on where your priorities lie and what you are comfortable with!

Consume with a conscience and you’ll be fine!

photo source

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  • http://www.ladiessportswear.co.uk Kirsty

    I’m suprised there’s not a hemp-based leather been made. Its incredible the different products you can manufacture form it. Paper, fuel, food, clothing – the list is endless.

  • http://www.choubelle.wordpress.com choubelle

    Oh, thank you so much! I was so confused about finding synthetic natural materials…last I heard, vegan leather was called “pleather!” This is sooo helpful.


  • http://none Tom

    So could a purse, belt or wallet made from PU (poly-urethane) be considered as a “vegan leather” product?

  • Morgan Alexander

    What material is the jacket made out of? I am a vegan that does hand made clothing and I’ve had a design for a leather-type hoodie, but haven’t found a material that I want to use. I’m looking for something light weight and close to leather, but would also like to increase my material inventory for future designs, too.

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  • amy

    Vegetan leather is leather that has been coloured using vegetables instead of the harsh chrome tanning. This is a eco friendly leather and NOT a leather substitute!

    • Jack

      No, it is actually a grade of course microfiber used by a specific company.

    • realist

      No..it is actually short for vegetable tanned leather. Hijacking the word to justify buying some cheap Chinese bag doesn’t make the synthetic leather any more eco-friendly.

    • D

      No, amy’s right. The term vegetan has been used for decades to refer to vegetable-ranned leather.
      Some random company just decided to hijack the term resulting in a situation that is ridiculous for anyone who knows anything about leather, and problematic for consumers who care about the distinction.

  • Gail

    I just received a vegan friendly handbag by Urban Expressions; just love it!!

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  • Ray

    What am I missing here? So now it’s better to throw away the hides from slaughtered beef and create a chemical intensive industry to replace it with. Sounds like an ecological nightmare. Not to mention the issues with using non-recyclilable materials, many of which are used to create this stuff.

    • ben

      You’re not missing anything Ray. Vegan Leather is a befittingly hypocritical term. Cracks me up. So much “green” “vegan” BS going around!! Where do they think the oil came from that all the synthetics are made out of? What about the carbon footprint of those stupid twisty light bulbs, and “outlawing” the glass/metal ones in the paper packaging. And that of hybrid cars. Suckers! The consumer might feel good about saving gas or electricity but it’s not real- The cost of production and disposal are worse for the planet than what you save. It’s marketing hype aimed at our good-intentioned conscience. Are we really all that short sighted? [Y] “Consumers”! Split wood, not atoms. Leather is a terrific, natural material. Carbon-neutral. Wasting that resource/by-product is cruel,wasteful, irresponsible, disrespectful to the animals and expensive. Leather is renewable. Pleather is NOT. Eco-friendly my ass! THINK people.

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  • LKW01915

    OK, I looked it up and this is what I found-”vegan” leather is not leather. It’s synthetic material. “Vegetable” leather IS leather but just tanned (as Amy said), with vegetable color but she referred to it as “Vegetan” leather so I guess your best bet is to look at the price-a leather handbag is going to be a lot more expensive than a non-leather.

  • Adele in Texas

    This is LUDICROUS fodder for the gullible. Give me a smooth as butter leather bag or real alligator shoes any day that will last in style AND substance for years, not some over priced piece of junk with a ooh la la label stuck to it. When the original is as cheaply made as the knockoff, something’s definitely wrong with that picture and fashion houses trying to pass their product offs with gimmicky high falutin words is just wrong-headed.

    What is “vegan leather”? The same manmade materials you find in any other cheap product.

  • CAsurfergirl

    Adele in TX – a woman after my own heart. I remember when shoes/bags/coats were “real” leather. Anything leather is better quality + lasts forever. Could “youngsters” have never owned animal hide? Personally, I never want Anything “vegan”. Make believe stuff is worth about 5 cents.
    p.s. wish I could afford a fur coat – quality/lasts forever…

  • ihopethemayanswereright

    The term “vegan leather” is a BS moniker to make idiots feel better about themselves and puff up own egos. It’s plastic, pleather, PVC, or just call it synthetic fiber. Whatever. IDIOTS!!!!

  • Steiner

    You are some serious fucking genious vegans… Using hydrocarbons on your clothes it makes so much sense making more contamination sources…

  • Realist

    The problem with “vegan leather” is, since it is not leather, when the user is finished with it and throws it out, it will stay in a landfill forever. At least real leather, which is a byproduct of our food chain, will completely decompose in a landfill. So much for being eco-friendly.

    The amount of chemicals in vegan leather far exceeds those used to make real leather and are not a byproduct of food production, but usually made from oil derivatives. Lots of potential for air, water, and land pollution. (Especially if it comes from China)

    • suzannecarlson

      Turning skin into “leather” is one of the most toxic processes on planet Earth.

    • D

      Depends on the type of leather actually.
      There are quite a variety of leather types, named for the tanning processes used, and several of them use entirely natural substances.

      Vegetan is actually the most common term for vegetable-tanned leather, which produces the only form of leather that’s really usable for tooling, and sees a fair bit of use in shoes, cases, etc. It uses nothing other than the hides and plant matter.

  • a german humanist

    Birckenstock support german neonazi and right-wing groops. They don’t let workers organize and if they do they cut wages. Humans are animals too, you know.

  • Just saying

    Well I suppose vegans who buy and wear ‘vegan leather’ don’t eat animals products at all, so in their mind it’s not wasteful because they’re not killing for food in the first place. These products are still terrible for them environment though.

  • Ray G

    You can just got get a deal BOGO at Payless (Plastic Shoe Source) for your vegan products. LOL. It is cheaper.

  • VeganBrainDeadFriendly

    Vegan Friendly? Now there’s a term for man made. I shall swap for ‘vegan friendly’ bags at the supermarket instead of the organic paper bags, a life is a life after all. Thrilled that I have a ‘vegan friendly’ car that spews ‘vegan friendly’ pollution into the atmosphere.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/oldvet70 George Long

    PVC ? Vegan friendly I guess but not Earth friendly. Made from OIL and takes a gazillion years to degrade. Stupid people

  • http://www.facebook.com/deanna.vestal DeAnna Vestal

    Not to keen on this “Vegan Leather” I’m too old fashion….. I want the real stuff. My 20 year old coat is leather, my 25 year old purse is leather and my shoes last me 5-10 years has to be leather or else the stink from my feet would clear a city

  • Rydog

    I love how angry meat eaters get when they hear of anything vegan. That’s enough for me to support it.

    • AgNO3

      So you support the drilling of Oil and Fracking to obtain the fossil fuels needed to make this stuff? Is that what you are saying.

  • retroz

    Let’s simplify. “Vegan leather” is just a fancy way of saying “plastic.”

  • Jennifer in CA

    I have a unique perspective on the vegetarian/vegan side of things. I grew up in rural Minnesota hunting and fishing – I’ve eaten venison heart (delicious) from a deer that was butchered in my garage, dismembered a grouse, and filleted a fish. I have no problem with people that humanely raise or hunt their own food.

    However, I made the choice to go vegetarian due to my disgust and horror at “factory farming”. There are free-roaming options, but A.) I don’t trust most labels, and B.) I use my meatless lifestyle as a means of protest. Since leather goods are mostly produced by factory farming, I’ve recently chosen to also forgo purchasing new leather items. Voting with your purchases will and does cause real change. (I’d like to note that with the exception of toiletries and undergarments, the vast majority of my purchases are good-quality, second-hand items. Thrift stores, consignment shops, Salvation Army, and craigslist are my go-to’s for nearly everything else I buy.)

    As far as the damage to the environment, EVERYTHING Americans purchase creates some kind of waste and pollution. It comes down to a matter of priorities. I acknowledge that the man-made items might be more detrimental to the environment in some aspects, but factory farming is also highly detrimental to the environment, and tortures living, sentient creatures at the same time. It’s not feasible to live a completely selfless, environmentally impact-less life and still remain a member of functioning American society. I HAVE decided, though, to choose what I believe to be the lesser of two evils.

    PS: I really, really miss steak. As in, when and if true change is made and factory farming as we know it is abolished, I’m going to make myself sick with filet mignon.

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  • afish

    So, if I’m looking at a pair of boots that are made of “vegan leather”, are most of you saying, don’t waste your money?

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  • ANGie

    Real leather is not a “by-product” of food production but a “co-product.” Cows are often skinned alive for the fashion industry to receive leather. Toxic chemicals or killing innocent animals? How about no leather at all and help animals and the environment.

    • Nathan

      I have known a lot of brave men in my time. I haven’t known any that were brave (stupid) enough to try to skin a 1500 pound animal alive…

      I hate to use reason to object to your emotional statement, but I think it is bull (pun intended).

      That said, it is a free country. If you want to wear processed petroleum instead of natural leather, go for it. Just don’t try to remove the same right from me.

    • topaz

      Actually it’s neither bull nor stupid. They don’t skin them alive using humans to do the work. They skin them alive with machines. The hides come out on the blood soaked factory floor still pulsing from the blood that’s still flowing through them. There was a disturbing scene in one of those ‘reality’ shows (from the UK) called ‘Blood, Sweat & Takeaways’. It followed several teenagers as they attempted to do the jobs that bring us our consumer items in more privileged countries. The kids were clearly not far from throwing up when they realised what was happening to make their ‘must have’ shoes.

      That’s not an argument for or against vegan leathers btw. Just noting that if we’re willing to wear it we should probably be willing to know how it gets made.

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  • suzannecarlson

    Why wouldn’t you wear any of these? These pieces are downright gorgeous in
    their own right. Not wearing the skins of tortured, dead animals?

  • D

    I mentioned this in a reply to somebody else, but the term “vegetan” has been in use for decades (at least) to refer to one of the oldest types of real leather: vegetable tanned leather. It’s a process that uses nothing but plant tannins, and still gets a lot of use.

    Folks wishing to buy leather leather that doesn’t have an animal component should avoid anything called “vegetan” unless you’re absolutely certain which it is.

  • That guy

    Look, either it’s vegan or it’s leather. It can’t be both. That’s like trying to sell petroleum free gasoline.

  • nataly carbonell

    Or in other words “FAKE LEATHER”

  • Michelle Smith

    Yes. A vegan product would be made of non-animal materials. That could also mean cotton or canvas or rubber…. lots of options.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-5111-Detroit-Wine-Examiner Chris

    Most of which were thought up while the inventor was smoking hemp.