July 29, 2021 3 min read
Find out why leather isn’t the best fashion choice, and how vegan alternatives can help your closet and the planet.
“Vegan leather.” Does this sound like an oxymoron? It kind of is. But it’s the best way to describe a material that functions like leather without all of the negative impact.
We all know that leather is luxurious, sturdy and looks great as a handbag. However, your favorite pair of shoes or purse comes at a cost. A great cost, one that damages the environment and perpetuates animal cruelty. By animals, we’re including humans as well (we are animals too, after all).
After the animal is slaughtered, the body is skinned and the hide goes through a process that removes hair and flesh with the use of various chemicals, including lime. Then it’s tanned with the use of toxic chemicals before being made into accessories, clothing, etc. The process is an ugly one and it highlights the importance of using an animal-friendly leather alternative (1).
Opting for a vegan leather purse or pair of shoes helps not only our four-legged friends, but us as well. From the beginning of the manufacturing process, the leather industry takes a toll. To start, the land needed for raising animals leads to mass deforestation in South America and other places, which is greatly contributing to climate change and a decrease in biodiversity. The cattle raising industry accounts for around 80% of the deforestation rates in the Amazon. The use of this land to raise cattle for meat and leather eliminates the habitat space of countless species and contributes to increasing greenhouse gas emissions (2).
On top of that, the tanning process involves the use of toxic chemicals including cancer-causing chromium, acids, natrium and ammonia salts, which can leak into water sources and tannery workers are exposed daily to these harmful chemicals at large quantities leading to various illnesses and death (3).
Overall, not a good look on the part of the leather industry. We need some cruelty-free leather!
Vegan leather material! Veggie leather! Whatever you want to call it. There have been leather alternatives in the works for quite a while. Most leather alternatives used today have a base layer and a coating. The coating is a fabric base that is typically topped with a polymer to look more like animal hide. This top coating gives the fabric the texture, hand feel and behavior closer to real leather.
This started all the way back to the days of the first automobiles. The first mass-produced faux leather, called “Fabrikoid,” was invented by the chemical company, DuPont and used in General Motors automobiles by 1915 (4). This of course just made way for the better alternatives we have to day. So no, your vegan purse is not made of the same material used for antique car seats.
The environmental movement of the late 60s/early 70s led to a greater demand for the use of leather alternatives in fashion. Even now, developments in the leather alternative industry continue to amaze.
The most common version of vegan leather that you’ve probably heard of is polyurethane or PU or in common parlance, “pleather”. The reason PU is not the best option largely has to due with the poor quality. The base layer for PU is usually a polyester or nylon woven material that is coated in polyurethane. Because woven materials stretch, the tops coat stretches well which caused the “leather-like finish” to crack and peel.
On top of the peels and cracks after a couple months of use, PU (ironically) smells a bit like tires or a new basketball. Not exactly an attractive description, especially if you’re planning on wearing it.
At Doshi, we stray away from PU to bring you better quality vegan accessories by using Microfiber vegan leather. Microfiber coated with polyurethane behaves much more like leather due to its non-woven base as opposed to the cheaper woven base of other faux-leather alternatives. This material has higher abrasion resistance and more flexibility compared to other vegan leather options.
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