What is Vegan Leather: All That you need to Know

When you hear of Vegan leather, you may want to do a quick search by asking google what is vegan leather? When we talk about leathers, a vegan has two options: synthetic or not. Is synthetic leather, ever so often called vegan leather, really the best option? The answer is a bit intricate.

While it is easy to have an understanding of what vegan leather is, understanding what it is can be complicated. Products qualified as vegan or ecological leather can be made of various materials such as satin cotton, cork, bark, paper, waxed cotton, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane.

The last two materials are the most commonly used materials for synthetic leather.

For years, PVC has been the primary and best-known resource for making vegan leather. But in recent years, it has become unusable. In recent years, PVC has raised concerns because of production problems and because it releases dioxins, potentially dangerous chemicals if burned.

What is so good about vegan leather?

Well, it depends on personal preference, but I’d say everything. First, it vegan leather not made from the skin of dead animals. Also, it is eco-friendly and exquisite. Thus, the question: What is Vegan Leather?

What is Vegan Leather?

Vegan leather is essentially any material, natural or synthetic, that is put to use in the production of items that are made by natural leather alone.

They mimic the appearance of natural leather in finished products without animals having to undergo any form of suffering or eventual death.

As such, products customarily made with natural leather such as bags, shoes, wallets, and so on are now being produced using vegan leather. Vegan leather is sometimes called  artificial leather, synthetic leather, and PU leather.

The vegan leather available today can generally be grouped into two categories. In one class, we have the synthetic materials used in making vegan leather; the popular ones in this category are polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane.

They are frequently, also referred to as pleather, which is a portmanteau derived from supple leather.

The other category is called the plant-based derivatives, and they include cork, apple leather, waxed cotton, pineapple leather (Pinatex), cactus, and MuSkin leather (which originates from the fungus Phellinus ellipsoids). These are all eco-friendly.

In recent years, there has been a trend shift towards environmentally friendly materials. It has, in no small measure, improved the popularity of vegan leather over the years, especially as regards to those sourced from natural sources.

The fact that it altogether avoids the killing of animals in sourcing for regular leather makes it a very appealing choice for vegans and an economically friendly and sustainable alternative over time.

Synthetic leather is, however, not much better than original leather, regarding its adverse effect on the environment. Polyvinyl chloride is known to release dioxin to the environment. Dioxins are capable of causing dysfunction to the immune and nervous system, damage the skin, cause liver problems, have a propensity to increase the risk of cancer.

To improve their flexibility, they employ the use of phthalates, which can be extremely harmful to health. They are capable of also causing disease and disrupting human reproduction. Polyurethane is slightly less toxic than Polyvinyl chloride and is being improved upon to reduce its tendency to be harmful to humans.

In general, plastics are detrimental to the environment and humans. They release bisphenol A and phosphates into the atmosphere, causing a rise in cases of hormonal disruptions. Alongside this, they are also a threat to marine life.

Natural leather, on the other hand, is generally eco-friendly. Vegan leather is made from biodegradable materials such as the bark of cork oaks, pineapple leaves, and cotton soaked in beeswax. They have other functional properties, such as being waterproof, more fashionable, and cheaper than natural leather.

It is said that the vegan leather industry is expected to be worth about $85 billion by 2025, based on an increase in global demand owing to its widespread application ranging from automotive, furnishing, clothing, bags, and so on.

The key driving factor is in its growth is stated to come from the increasing demand in the footwear industry. Grand View Research presented these findings in a paper published in January 2019.

Vegan Leather Products

There a variety of vegan leather products now in the market. These products range from bags, shoes, belts, wallets, jackets, inner finishing of automobiles, and so on.

Vegan Leather Bags

There abound different vegan leather brand bags in the market now. They are made from different materials, such as cork, cotton, polyurethane, natural rubber, and recycled plastic.

Popular brands in the vegan leather bag industry Stella McCartney, Matt & Nat, Urban expressions, Gunas, LaBante London, Ethique 212, among others.

vegan leather bags

These top brands have set the pace when it comes to luxury vegan leather bags and has been embraced by top celebrities, thus increasing the reach of these brands. Anne Hathaway, apart from regularly promoting Jill Milan bags, actually wore a Jill Milan bag to the première of the movie Oceans 8.

Vegan leather bags have the advantage of being water-resistant over original leather bags. Over time, original leather bags are more durable even if stretch marks often appear.

Vegan Leather Shoes

Another popular area in which vegan leather has grown in popularity and usage is as regards to footwear. There are various options available for male and female shoes, variants such as boots, sandals, sneakers, and loafers exist for customers to choose from.

vegan leather shoe

Brands available to choose from include Doc Martens, Matt & Natt, BC Footwear, Stella McCartney, Sydney Brown, and others.

What stands vegan shoes out is the variety of designs available to choose from along the fact that they are very affordable when compared with original leather. There are, however, a few exceptions to this rule, such as McCartney, which is a high-end vegan brand.

Vegan Leather Jackets

When it comes to jackets, vegan leather jackets, come in handy for a variety of reasons. Top of the list is their affordability, which is an essential consideration in today’s market.

Another reason they are the right choice is that they are much easier to maintain than original leather jackets. Long term, vegan leather jackets are not as durable as original leather.

vegan leather jacket

As such, if properly maintained, they will prove to be durable. They are also not easily distinguishable from original leather by merely looking at them.

There are, however, differences between vegan leather jackets and original leather jackets. For one, real leather possesses pores and texture, while vegan leather is glossier. vegan leather also does not have any detail in the material.

Real leather can withstand moisture as well, but vegan leather jackets do not tolerate humidity well and tend to wrinkle when folded. In terms of smell, genuine leather jackets have a pleasant smell, while vegan leather jackets tend to have a chemical smell, especially those made from synthetic materials.

Real leather jackets are often being worn by military personnel, bike riders, and race car drivers due to their toughness. Wearers of these jackets are more protected during accidents than wearers of vegan leather jackets. As such, a real leather jacket is to go-to leather for protective clothing.

Some brands of the vegan leather jacket include the sway, wolf and lamb, Tradesy, and Vestiaire collectives.

Vegan Leather In Automobiles

Slowly, there has been a replacement of real leather with vegan leather in the automobile industry. Industry leaders have taken note of the increase in the number of vegans and the change in taste. Big brands such as Mercedes, Range Rover, Ford, Renault, Nissan, among others, now produce vegan-friendly cars.

Adjustments are now being made in the interior finishing, with the gear knob and steering wheel of the Volkswagen golf made of non-leather materials.

Range Rover employed part-polyester and wool material for their seats. Wool still needs to be obtained from sheep, however. It is agreed that it may not be possible to make cars 100% vegan, but the aim, as stated by the Vegan Society, is to reduce animal suffering as much as is possible.

How To Clean Vegan Leather ?

Aside from usage, it is necessary that any person who uses vegan leather ought to learn how to clean their material to improve its durability further correctly. When it comes to cleaning of vegan leather, due consideration will have been given to the type of leather in question. Is it natural vegan leather or synthetic vegan leather?

While synthetic leather is waterproof, natural vegan leather is not. Also, while some cleaning products may be compatible with some types of vegan leather, the same cleaning products might not be compatible with other types of vegan leather.

All these have to be considered to make sure that vegan leather is appropriately cleaned and not damaged in the process of cleaning.

In cleaning the exterior of vegan leather, usually bags, one crucial consideration is to go ahead and clean dirt as soon as they appear. Doing this prevents stains from getting stuck on the material and thus become harder to clean in the long run. One good means to do this is the usage of damp baby wipes.

For stains that have set due to one reason or the other, it is advisable to use diluted soap alongside warm water, and a clean white cloth to wipe out these stains. It is necessary to ensure that moisture is removed from the cloth as much as possible before using it.

This is to make sure that the vegan leather material is not over saturated with moisture. Using a white cloth is also done to avoid dye stains getting stuck on your vegan leather.

For more difficult stains such as ink stains, a 1:2 solution of vinegar in water can be used. Afterward, use a clean white cloth soaked in the solution to vigorously clean only the stained part of the leather in small circles.

Then, wipe the cleaned area with a clean damp cloth. If the stain remains, the process can be repeated.

Another pitfall to watch out for a while cleaning is a failure to remove any soapy residue left on the material. There is a tendency for them to crack when soapy residue is allowed to dry out on them. It is also not advisable to sundry, but rather air drying in a location with little humidity, after wiping excess moisture with a clean cloth, will help to prevent cracks from appearing.

It is advisable not to place them in washing machines. The hot fluid in them can be harmful to the vegan leather. Rather, hand washing and cleaning is the way to go.

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Pros and Cons of Vegan Leather

Vegan leather of different types possesses certain characteristics that will make them appealing to users. Also, they have certain qualities that make them harmful to human health and the environment. In this section, we will consider some of them.


  • Generally, vegan leather is cheaper when compared with real leather. From an economic standpoint, they thus are a good alternative.
  • Also, they all avoid the need to subject animals to cruelty to get their skin and hides to make natural leather. This is very important for vegans and is also a necessary consideration for the environment.
  • The natural vegan leather, such as cork leather, Mackin, and others are biodegradable and eco-friendly. Thus, one does not have to worry about them causing longterm damage to the environment and humans, during and after use.
  • They are very fashionable and are usually lighter in weight. This is no small measure due to their versatility and flexibility.
  • The polyvinyl chloride and polyurethane can be made up in any color, allowing for variation.
  • MuSkin is breathable, unique, and has an irregular texture that mimics animal leather.
  • Cork leather possesses the unique distinction of being waterproof and resistant to wear and tear.


  • The synthetic vegan leather made from Polyvinyl chloride and polyurethane is made from non-renewable fossil fuels and is not sustainable. They do not decompose easily and thus cannot be recycled.
  • The synthetic vegan leather types are also not biodegradable and do not age well.
  • Also, natural vegan leather is not so durable in the long-term.
  • Release of dioxins from synthetic leather increases the risk of cancer, malfunction of the immune and nervous system, and liver damage.
  • Polyvinyl chloride is not breathable, thus making it uncomfortable, especially when it stinks.
  • Vegan leather is more difficult to maintain; it also cracks up more quickly.


Is Vegan Leather good quality?

Vegan leather quality differs based on the material used. The materials themselves are of varying qualities. They serve as the major determinant in the quality of the vegan product. However, high-quality vegan leather is available in the market today. These tend to be more durable than low-quality types.

Synthetic or natural vegan leather is generally of a lower price range and lower quality when compared to real leather. Vegan leather has to properly stored to prevent them from absorbing moisture and slouching. Over time, they crack as well.

Vegan leather explicitly made for purposes such as jet ski seats is of good quality and function well.

What’s Vegan Leather made out of?

Vegan leather is made out of a variety of materials. They can be grouped into those made from synthetic materials and those made from natural materials. For the synthetic category, examples include polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane.

These materials are not biodegradable and are made from non-renewable fossil fuels. They are also harmful to the environment, releasing dioxins into the environment. Dioxins are capable of causing cancer and disrupting human development.

The more eco-friendly vegan leather made from natural materials includes pineapple, apple, grape, cork, paper, wood, mushroom, cactus, waxed cotton, MuSkin (Phellinus ellipsoids). These materials are biodegradable and are not harmful to the environment.

Is Vegan Leather Durable?

The answer to this question is yes. How durable, though, depends on its use and maintenance. When used for purposes such as marine and boat upholstery that gets wet all the time, it is much more preferable than original, untreated leather. For bags, though, vegan leather tends to get worn out more easily.

Is Vegan leather the same as a Pleather?

To an extent, yes. Pleather is a portmanteau derived from supple leather. It applies to synthetic vegan leather, such as Polyvinyl chloride and polyurethane. Given that there are newer vegan leather types that are plant-based such as pineapple leather, apple leather, cork, cactus, and so on.

Vegan leather is not exclusively pleather, but the popularity of synthetic leather means that often pleather will be used interchangeably for vegan leather.

Is Vegan leather comfortable?

The answer is not straightforward. Comfortability is dependent on the type of vegan material used in making the product. For bags, vegan leather is more comfortable and weighs less than original leather. For footwear made with synthetic leather, they are more water-resistant than real leather.

Synthetic leather is usually designed with the mindset to hold up against the weather. Also, to reduce its wear and tear from walking and running over an extended period.

Is Vegan Leather toxic?

Generally, it is only the synthetic vegan leather that is toxic Polyvinyl chloride is known to release dioxin to the environment. Dioxins are capable of causing dysfunction to the immune and nervous system, damage the skin, cause liver problems, have a propensity to increase the risk of cancer.

Polyurethane is slightly less harmful than Polyvinyl chloride and is being improved upon to reduce its tendency to be harmful to humans.

Final Words

In conclusion, for a leather substitute to be considered genuinely vegan, it must not only be free from animal products, but it must also consist of a natural and sustainable resource that does not contaminate the environment during production and of elimination. Eco-friendly vegan leather, like cork, is certainly not a health risk due to the transfer of toxins to the leather, as is animal leather tanned with synthetic or chromium.

It is an herbal product that has a net beneficial effect on the environment and follows a circular design pattern. No material derived from the oil can be considered vegan due to environmental damage and health risks caused by the use of the oil.

We consider cork to be the most long-lasting, eco-friendly, herbal, and natural vegan leather available today. However, we fully support natural vegan leathers, and we love to see the innovation in the variety of different plant fibers studied and produced.

We believe that any product based on a natural resource, which does not contaminate at any stage of its life cycle and which has a beneficial effect on the planet, should be recommended.

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I am an Architect Engineer by profession with great interest in web and content creation. I have used leather products for a long time, which has increased my enthusiasm, knowledge, and understanding of leather. I am here to shed light on the leather and guide you on choosing the best leather products.

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