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WTF is Vegan Leather? And Why You Should Be Shopping For It

From the cheap smelly plastic of yesteryear to hand-crafted earth-friendly materials of today. Let's dive into the details on why you should be shopping for vegan leather for work or for play.

With the world honing in on more eco-friendly alternatives to things that we use every day, let us now take a look at a material that is not only eco-conscious but looks chic and stylish — vegan leather.

So, what is vegan leather and what is so great about it that even the great Stella McCartney is already endorsing its virtues?

Well, its best attribute just might be because it is not made from the skin of dead animals. Rather, it is usually made using polyurethane, which is a polymer that can be made to order, depending on the whims of the designer.

Vegan leather can also be made from odd materials such as the leaves of a pineapple, the peels of apples and other fruits wastes, and even recycled plastic can possibly be used to produce all kinds of products.

As mentioned, one of the most prominent names in the fashion industry that is using vegan leather is Stella McCartney, who takes pride in featuring the material in her collections. She does so for good reason; vegan leather is very versatile and can be used in different articles of clothing for both men and women like biker jackets to little black dresses. Even those intimate items that are normally reserved for bedroom endeavors have vegan leather counterparts.

And that’s not all! You can also find vegan laptop bags, vegan work bags, women’s laptop bags, billfolds and even seat covers for your vehicles! And if you have more resources at your disposal than usual, the famed automotive company is known for its green-living innovations — Tesla — even has premium seating made out of vegan leather, joining the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, and BMW.

Apart from the quality of vegan leather which is at par, and in some cases, better than actual leather, the warm and fuzzy feeling that you get when you know that animals such as cows, goats, pigs, sheep, ostriches, alligators, kangaroos, cats, and even dogs were spared from being slaughtered makes it all worth your while.

Sadly, these animals literally go through hell before they are killed. Investigative reports have indicated that the tails and horns of a lot of these creatures are simply sliced off without the use of any painkillers! There are even some that are skinned and torn apart while they are still alive. In stark contrast, vegan leather provides you with all kinds of products that make for a killer look, with any actual killing involved.

Vegan leather is also touted for its sustainability. While most consumers are only aware of the finished product that they hold in their hands, little do they know that converting skin into leather entails the usage of loads of energy along with different toxic chemicals which includes tar, mineral salts, dyes, oils, and derivatives just to name a few. Not only that but the waste from the tanneries that produce real leather also has salt that fouls the water, sludge, acids, and various environment-harming pollutants.

So, how is vegan leather made?

To give you a better picture of what vegan leather is, let’s take a brief look into how it is actually produced.

Vegan leather is made using various chemicals and a different industrial technique compared to that of real leather. Binding a plastic coating to fabric backing is a usual method for producing vegan leather. The kind of plastic that is used in these coatings differ and is the difference between the vegan leather being eco-friendly or not.

PVC is not used nearly as much than it was back in the day but it still can be found in some way or form in the composition of vegan leather. PVC has been known to release dioxins, which can be possibly harmful when this is done in closed spaces and even more dangerous when burnt. It also makes use of phthalates to make it even more flexible.

Depending on the kind of phthalate that is being used, they can be very toxic, so much so that Greenpeace has gone as far as saying that it is the most damaging kind of plastic to the environment.

More conventional and less damaging is the plastic called PU, which is constantly being worked on to lessen its flaws like the toxic elements that it releases during the manufacturing process, and the polymers it is made with, which actually uses fossil fuels.


MEET THE AUTHOR Tara O'Doherty is Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of voxie. She's a global award-winning strategist, marketer, designer, author, speaker and educator who lives in Toronto, Canada with her two fat dogs. She is best known for her SickKids VS digital work which resulted in numerous global awards and helped secure over $700 million dollars in donations for the hospital. She is also the former co-Founder and CPO of JADEO and x-VP of Experience Strategy at Cossette Communications, and currently the VP of Design and UX at Akendi.


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