In recent years we have seen vegan leather become a topic of conversation in the sustainable fashion industry. Let's explore the sustainability of natural vegan leather, regular leather, and plastic-based alternatives based on the various manufacturing processes.
The rise of vegan leather has been bound more to animal rights than to environmentalism; but as vegan lifestyles started becoming associated with environmentalism, it touched upon leather too. Vegan lifestyles have many environmental and health benefits. However, vegan alternatives are not more sustainable or eco-friendly by default, and such is the case with vegan leather.
Real leather is made from the hide of animals. The most commonly-used animal is cattle used for meat. Vegan leather imitates the look and feel of this leather but does so without the use of animal products. It goes by several names, including synthetic, artificial, imitation, and faux leather. There are different types of vegan leather available, from plastic to plant-based alternatives.
Vegan leather is not made from any of these materials, as it is a plastic derived and made from PVC. PVC is rigid, thus requiring the use of plasticizers such as phthalates to make it flexible.
Is Vegan Leather More Sustainable than Leather?
When it comes to weighing up the positives and negatives of real and vegan leather, the argument in favor of the former often highlights that since leather is a by-product of cattle used for meat, it helps reduce waste. But this ignores the reality of how large animal agriculture’s environmental footprint is overall. Nevertheless, weighing up the pros and cons between the two remains complicated. When looking at alternative leather options, it's essential to consider their durability. Will the bag, pair of shoes, jacket last for years to come?
As animal leather products are known for being durable, getting real leather into your closet in the first place comes with a lot of detrimental side effects. Besides using material from an animal whose heavy and consistent use negatively impacts the environment, it also requires a lot of water, energy, and chemicals to tan leather. Real leather can also be more sustainable when second-hand leather goods are considered. Recycled or regenerated leather is another option, reducing the need for virgin materials. However, while these options are more sustainable, they’re not an option for strict vegans.
At Consigning Women we are helping with the sustainability of the leather world by offering many designer leather items up for availability for their next life in your wardrobe.
When you begin spring cleaning out your wardrobe please consider consigning wardrobe pieces that no longer serve you with Consigning Women.