Getting What You Pay For In The World of Vegan Leather: PU, Cork, Microfiber Vegan Leather, and More

October 11, 2019 3 min read

Vegan Leather:  What are you getting for your money?

It's interesting to know what you're paying for and what' you're getting in return. We'll come out with an article soon why regular PU is not vegan leather (it's really a (cheap) fabric).  Here's a behind the scenes look at cost:

Ordinary PU: $1-2/yard. Can be higher for some higher grades. Ordinary PU, which is used by most companies is NOT vegan leather. PU is simply a cheap nylon or polyester backing with a PU (polyurethane) coating. It is the lifeblood of fast fashion. Unfortunately, because of how cheap it is, most vegan companies use the same material in the name of animals. There's some level of dishonesty there because the term vegan leather should denote some level of quality and ordinary PU and quality are two things that do not go together.

We'll never use ordinary PU in our products.  It consistently cracks, peels or has some other inconsistency and is the entire reason that we started Doshi - to give people quality vegan products with real vegan leather.

Cork: $3/yard. While we plan to experiment with cork fabric, "cork" isn't really just cork. In fact, in our simple visual analysis of cork, the backing is the majority of the material.There is always a backing behind the cork that is cotton or polyester which then begs the question, shouldn't we just use the cotton or polyester to make the bag?  The true material should be called polyester with a cork finish on top.

Non-woven Microfiber (what Doshi uses): $15/yard.  This is the only material that deserves to be called vegan leather. In our case, "non-woven" means that microfiber strands are made to mat unevenly and create what amounts to an extremely durable synthetic skin.  Unlike ordinary PU, the non-woven base can be mistaken for an animal hide. Microfiber feels and performs on par with if not better than high end leather and is as durable. In vegan leather applications, a thin layer of PU on top of the microfiber base gives it a leather look. The manner in which the PU adheres to the base material is amazing. It is difficult to cause the PU and microfiber bond to break down. While in the long run, we want to be able to move to completely plant based materials, our current material of choice far surpasses ordinary PU as far as its feel, durability, scratch resistance, resistance to peeling and cracking, wear and more.

Pinatex: Over $50/yard and that's before transport cost to our factories. Pinatex is made from the waste plant material that is created when pineapples are harvested in the Philippines. Pinatex is 80% biodegradable and they're working on getting to 100%. It makes us so happy to see a company taking what would otherwise be waste and turn it into a material that we can use. While we LOVE Pinatex, we're limited to what we can do with it because it is cost prohibitive.

Other Materials on the horizon: We're often asked about mushroom leather, algae leather and other emerging materials.  We're excited to try all of them but cost is a key component.  We're here to make beautiful, quality products that last and which provide our customers with value.  We want everyone to enjoy quality vegan fashion.  Getting everyone to enjoy vegan fashion is the way that we'll create the greatest impact.


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