So you wanna buy leather without the whole animal-skin-factor?
Well you’ve come to the right place. Today we’re talking about Vegan Leather, and no - it’s not as straight forward as you might think.
You’ve probably searched “Vegan Leather” in Google and a whole range of bags, shoes, jackets and wallets pop up. Titles like “Vegan Leather”, “Cruelty Free Leather, “Pleather” and “Faux Leather” flood your screen and we bet you’re thinking - “Well what’s the difference?"
The difference, unfortunately, lies a little deeper than the product's description, as you can imagine not all Vegan Leathers are created equally.
We've put together a list for our guide through the world of Vegan Leather. Read on to learn more.
PU/PVC: Also known as Polyurethane and Polyvinyl-chloride respectively, these are the most common, cheapest and nastiest of vegan leathers. Why? To put it simply… because they’re plastic. Cue: mic drop moment.
There’s no denying that these are still technically Vegan leather (vegan: no animal products) but they are by no means sustainable. Plastic means oil, oil means drilling, drilling means… well pretty sure you get the gist.
Additionally, plastic products take years to degrade and when they do they break UP, not down. Even before they become landfill, plastic goods shed microfibres, meaning we’re breathing and consuming those little plastic bits without even knowing it.
If you’re looking for a cheap, abundant, leather alternative and don’t really care about the environmental impacts of it's lifecycle or it’s durability than P.U. is the Vegan Leather for you!
Recycled PU: Here we are again. Hint: the name kinda gives it away. Essentially, we’ve put Recycled P.U. as a ‘better’ option because it is contributing somewhat to the reduction of virgin P.U. Production however, it’s really just prolonging the inevitable…I.e it’s still plastic and it’s still got the same unfortunate fate as regular P.U. so for that reason it isn’t our top choice.
This one is for the people who wanna feel like they’re helping the environment but only a little bit.
Cork: A less common alternative, cork is actually a relatively solid choice if you’re wanting something strictly eco-friendly. Being harvested from cork trees, cork leather aids in planting more trees which means more CO2 absorption. The cork bark is also a layer stripped from the tree whilst keeping it alive, meaning no tree death! The tree can continue producing the bark which can continue to be harvested without any real detriment to the soil. Plus being a natural product, it can be recycled and is biodegradable. Although we can’t speak from personal experience, the material is said to be durable, waterproof and fire resistant. The one downside would be its appearance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do much to rival the real thing in terms of appearance and that’s why it’s not on our “Best” list.
This alternative is great for people who don’t care that their bags don’t look like leather and strictly want something sustainable.
Pineapple Leather: Please don’t get us wrong, we love our Pineapple leather. It’s the product that got us started and was the front runner in this space at the time. But, like Cork, its appearance is just not able to contend with real Leather. It’s a much better selection for enviro-reasons, as it’s a natural byproduct of the farming industry and can be used to create a Bio-Fuel in it’s development which is used to run machinery, providing a second or third stream of income to the farmers who would have otherwise left these leaves to rot.
It’s an excellent choice for those who prefer a wrinkled texture (or anyone interested in ‘Vintage’ A_C products!)
Of course, we’re bias but as Sinead O’Connor famously once sung - "nothing compares, nothing compares to…."
No surprise here. Cactus leather is obviously our top pick (hence why we work with it) both for its environmental benefits and stylistic design. If you want more info on why it’s such a great alternative take a look at our other post which goes through the pros and pros. To give you a quick 101, Cactus is a carbon sink, consuming carbon and spitting out these majestic beasts rapidly without needing any water. The plants themselves are never removed from the Earth which aids Carbon capture and the bio-used resin we eventually work with is backed with recycled cotton to give it a strong and luxurious handfeel.
Mushroom: Mushroom leather is new on the scene and is actually not available for commercial purchase yet. However, from all the exciting news we’ve gotten from the innovators - it seems a very high contender for first place as far as vegan leathers go. It’s a natural resource that can be grown on sawdust or agricultural waste meaning it is not region specific for farming and utilises waste to create something productive. Additionally, 'shrooms help store carbon whilst growing, suggesting a low-carbon footprint. Only issue with this is the technology is still not at its peak meaning trial and error will be needed for brands deciding to work with it, and a little longer wait for consumers. AKA - us.
This one’s for the high achievers who wanna get ahead of the game (and are willing to wait).
Sand: Or as you might know it; Silicone. Although we’re still researching this magical mystery material it definitely seems promising. It is made from sand or silica and made with assistance of hydrocarbons. It is BPA, PU and PVC free and is recyclable (by specialised recycling centres). It’s also listed as “stain resistance, weather resistance, waterproof, durable, safe and nontoxic, chemical resistance and high and low temperature resistance”. Not to mention it looks and feels like leather. (!)
This may be a good choice if you’re willing to do the digging and of course, we will keep you updated on any info we find while we explore this exciting option.
A_C Design and Development Team
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