Is Vegan Leather Sustainable?

BY ANNA SPROUL

Talking about leather in the fashion industry is as taboo as politics at a dinner party. Most of the time, “vegan leather” could be used to stop these usually confrontational discussions, but is it really the perfect answer?

But is it?

The word “vegan” can be misleading. Most would simply assume that since there is a “vegan” in the name, vegan leather is healthy and sustainable. It turns out the answer is like most adult life, complicated.

What Is Vegan Leather

There is no one authority that holds ultimate correct answer to this, but many agree that, on principle, vegan leather refers to any leather-like materials that’s not made of animal skin.

Sounds great, isn’t it? Thousands and thousands of animals can be saved by the adoption of vegan leather. But to all the savvy-minds out there, you must have noticed how loose and ambiguous this definition is. And in any business, where there is ambiguity, there is a catch.

The Catch

Because of the loose definition, companies could produce vegan leather with unfriendly materials. Ironically, bypassing animal welfare does not automatically land us in the safe zone. To date, two of the most widely used synthetic materials for vegan leather are polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane (PU), both are plastic-based materials.

Yes, plastic.

While technology never stops improving, PVC and PU are still criticized for the hazardous toxins released during the manufacturing process, which is harmful to the workers producing them and the environment where they end up. And for all your animal lovers out there, these plastic-based materials are similar to the plastic straws that harm the sea turtles.

Other Options

Lucky enough, there are natural and organic materials available to replace, or at least reduce, the use of PVC or PU, like cork, mango, mushrooms, apple peels and so on. Recycling is also a way to minimize the environmental impact of the plastic-based materials.

Many start-ups are exploring this path. Big textile companies are also looking for better alternatives too. Wearable fruits, or edible clothes, however you’d like to call it, seems to be an inevitable future.

 

 

About the Writer

Anna works as an editorial and personal stylist; previously with Vanity Fair in London and prior to that Prada, as well as freelance throughout.

Anna has a known and deep fondness to style herself and everyone in close vicinity every day. She also has found a love to write about style, fashion and everything in-between that tickles her fancy.

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