Leather. Millennia ago it was still vital for survival, but in recent centuries it has exuded a scent of modest luxury or optionally adventure, especially as a soft, "stylistic" material. Today, the leathery reality, unfortunately, has a less pleasant smell. Greenhouse gases, water pollution and animal cruelty are just some of the rather smelly side effects of leather production.
But hey, we get it-leather just feels good, purely haptic. The supple texture, the bold statement it makes. It's hard to imagine life without leather, right? In leather suits for motorcyclists, it is still a survival material today, as with the Stone Age people. This article is about how we can enjoy all the benefits of leather, only without nasty side effects.
Vegan leather is the answer, and future-we are convinced of that! It's light, it's hip, and-damn it-it's eco-friendly. With over 10 different types of vegan leather circulating in the market, we're way beyond the days when "vegan" was synonymous with "boring," if it ever was. Luxury brands jump on the bandwagon, cars roll off the assembly line with them and you could be the next one who might wear it on their feet. Here come 10 facts about vegan leather that will take your (leather) pants off. Spoiler: If the subject is still new to you, it could turn all your fashion comprehension upside down.
1. There are already over 10 vegan types of leather today
Vegan leather, once a niche product, is slowly arriving in breadth. We celebrate that because that means that less and less animal leather is being sold. In fact, today there are over 10 different types of vegan leather made from different materials. This enables a wide range of aesthetic and haptic qualities, from smooth and shiny surfaces that some still know from the KitKat Club, to last but not least textured and velvety variants.
In order to keep it simple and to give you a quick orientation, we want to distinguish three basic types. The ones made from purely plant-based materials, including pineapple leaf fibers (Piñatex), apple scraps (AppleSkin) and cork. Made from synthetic materials such as PVC or polyurethane (PU). And the one from a mixed form of both. In the case of purely synthetic materials, the question quickly arises as to whether these are also sustainable. We asked our co-founder Pippo about this. Because he is actually an engineer, knows his way around materials and has helped develop a tool for measuring ecological sustainability in a company for many years, we arrested him to write an article about it.
The variations that already exist mean that designers can now choose material that not only meets the aesthetic requirements of their product, but also functional requirements-water resistance, breathability or longevity, to name three examples.
As innovative companies and research institutions continue to explore new ways to transform plant and synthetic materials into durable and aesthetically pleasing leather alternatives, the diversity is constantly growing.
For our five Slides We have deliberately chosen innovative variants that are water-repellent, durable and particularly soft. We use a variant made from recycled cotton. Like to see our slippers For each product you will find the exact composition under "Material details".
2. One of the most innovative leather is made from pineapple leaf fibers
Piñatex, one of the most innovative and environmentally friendly leather alternatives, is made from the fibers of pineapple leaves. Your next pair of shoes could come from the same fruit you enjoy in your summer cocktail.
But how does pineapple leaves become leather? It all starts on pineapple plantations. The leaves normally considered waste are collected. The long fibers are then extracted from the leaves and woven into a kind of fleece, which is then subjected to a series of processing steps to turn it into a leather-like texture.
One of the things that makes Piñatex so special is its environmental record. Because it is made from a by-product of the pineapple crop, its production does not require additional resources such as water, fertilizer or pesticides. In addition, the manufacturing process is designed to produce as little waste as possible, whereby the residues produced in fiber extraction can be used as natural fertilizer and biofuel.
And don't be fooled into thinking that Piñatex is some kind of inferior replacement. The material is remarkably robust, versatile and breathable, making it ideal for a variety of products, from shoes and handbags to watch bracelets and for upholding car pads.
Piñatex is a strong example. Also check our article for production, here we have u.a. Researched a list of established variants for you.
3. Artificial leather is usually lighter than real leather
A striking advantage of most leather alternatives over animal leather is the lower weight.
This is due to the materials and processes used to make artificial leather. Instead of using thick animal skins, which must undergo lengthy and intensive processing, many artificial leathers are made of woven or non-woven textile pads coated with a thin layer of polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). These materials are much lighter than animal skins, which means that the end product also weighs less.
But why should weight play a role? Well, for the launch, lighter materials can make wearing products such as jackets, shoes or bags more enjoyable. Less weight equals less stress, which is noticeable, for example, when carrying heavy bags for longer. Lighter materials also reduce logistics and sometimes even manufacturing costs, as less material is required for the same area.
In short, the lower weight of artificial leather is a big plus, which improves both comfort and environmental impact.
4. Genuine leather substitute has a significantly lower water consumption and CO2 footprint than animal leather
Real leather substitute is much more environmentally friendly to manufacture. During the production of animal leather, significant amounts of water are consumed and a significant amount of greenhouse gases are released. All phases of the production process are affected. The rearing and feeding of the animals, the tanning of the skin, up to the manufacture of the end product.
Vegan leather, on the other hand, has a significantly lower water consumption and a smaller carbon footprint. Especially if they were made from organic plant materials.
In addition, most vegan leather alternatives are free of the toxic chemicals used in leather tanning. These chemicals can be harmful to both the environment and the people who work in the tannery. Especially in countries where job security does not play a major role, people often ruin their health in more or less legal leather tanning.
However, it is important to note that not all genuine leather substitutes are created the same. Some, especially those made from PVC, can, but also do not need to, have a significant environmental impact. Therefore, when choosing vegan leather, it is important to pay attention to what material was used and how it was processed. Synthetical leathers, especially made of PU, we will therefore dedicate our own article.
Regardless of these nuances, it is clear that vegan leather has a clear advantage over animal leather in terms of environmental friendliness, and that is definitely a step in the right direction.
5. It is estimated that the global vegan leather industry will reach a value of nearly 90 billion dollars by 2025
The vegan leather industry is growing. A report by Infinium Global Research predicts that the global vegan leather market will increase to 89.6 billion dollars by 20251. The growing demand is driven by several factors, including changing consumer trends, concerns about the environmental impact of traditional leather, and an overall increasing need for vegan products!
In addition, there is the fact that vegan leather has long since caught up with its ancient ancestors in terms of functional properties, and in parts has even overtaken them. Here the thought fits that an innovation whose time has come cannot stop anything.
Large companies are increasingly recognizing this. More big brands, from luxury designers to automakers, are turning to alternatives. These companies not only recognize the ecological benefits, but above all the huge market potential that it offers.
6. Vegan leather is hypoallergenic
Allergy sufferers will be pleased that vegan leather is hypoallergenic. This means that it is less likely to cause allergic reactions. This is in contrast to some animal leathers, which are often treated during the tanning process with chemicals that can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions.
As a rule, genuine leather alternatives are produced without the use of such chemicals, which makes it an excellent choice for people with sensitive skin, allergies or certain medical conditions. Since it can also be easily cleaned with a damp cloth without being susceptible to stains or water damage, synthetic leather becomes the first choice for many people because of its practical advantages.
7. There is completely bilogic degradable artificial leather
Providing that a plant-based imitation leather has been treated exclusively with bilogically degradable additives, it is completely biodegradable. If that is the case, they can be composted at the end of life, which means that they naturally decompose and are returned to the environment rather than lingering in a landfill for centuries. So they are wonderfully suitable for the Cradle to Cradle concept. Do you know the Cradle to Cradle concept? Let us know in the comments, if no and you are interested, we are happy to write something about it.
Back to the bilogical degradability. An example of such an innovative material is MuSkin, a vegan leather made from mushrooms. MuSkin is obtained from the skin of a special fungus and wonderfully soft and flexible.
8. Many luxury fashion brands, such as Stella McCartney and Gucci, have already included this miracle material in their collections
The advent of vegan leather has made huge waves in the fashion world, and some of the most prestigious luxury brands are already using it in their collections. This changeover is a strong sign that vegan leather is not only an ethical and environmentally friendly choice, but also a fashionable and sought-after option.
Stella McCartney is one of the brands that go quite far. She has pledged not to use animal leather in all of her collections, but to use alternatives instead. Their designs prove that fashion can be both stylish and responsible. Depending on what you like.
Gucci is another example of a luxury brand that has opted for vegan leather. They recently introduced a jacket made from Demetra, a new leather substitute made from predominantly plant-based and sustainable sources.
For us at five, what we do will be a success when other major brands switch completely to vegan.
9. Caution: Despite the name, not every "synthetic leather" is really vegan
Important: not every material that is called "synthetic leather" is actually vegan. Some artificial leather may contain animal by-products or use chemicals based on animal products in manufacturing. It is therefore crucial to take a closer look and find out more before making a purchase decision.
Many artificial leather manufacturers have recognized the value of transparency and now clearly label their products to inform customers. But not all of them do, and regulation in this area can vary from country to country. It can therefore be helpful to ask the brand or manufacturer directly if you are unsure. In this context, official seals and certificates can be helpful. For example, we quickly decided to be certified and proudly wear the PETA approved vegan seal.
When we are attentive together as buyers and make conscious purchasing decisions, we ensure that many can no longer afford to cheat. Fortunately, there are many resources and guides online that can help distinguish vegan from non-vegan faux leather. And the more demand there is for real vegan leather, the more incentive manufacturers have to change their practices and become more transparent.
10. Tesla and BMW are increasingly using non-animal leather in their interiors
The automotive industry is famous for its love of leather-after all, nothing is more luxurious than a car with the finest leather interior, right? Well, Tesla and BMW seem to see it a little differently. They are increasingly relying on vegan leather and showing that luxury and sustainability can go hand in hand.
Tesla has broken the animal leather trend and is now offering a 100% vegan interior. Elon Musk has revealed that all models, including the popular Model 3, will be fitted exclusively with vegan leather. With this, Tesla gives its customers the opportunity to make an environmentally friendly choice without giving up the luxury they are used to from the brand.
BMW has also recognized the trend and equipped its i-series with vegan leather. The material used (Sensatec) is a high-quality leather substitute that can hardly be distinguished from real leather.
These advances in the automotive industry show that vegan leather is not only a niche product for the environmentally conscious, but is now also taken seriously by the biggest names in the industry.
Vegan Leather Rocks!
Now that we have taken off our lederhosen and upheld the alternatives, we are eager to get your opinion. Which of the points surprised you the most? Which brands that rely on animal suffering do you have in your wardrobe or garage? And are there vegan types of leather that you are particularly interested in or that you have already tested yourself?
Write your thoughts, experiences and questions in the comments below. We look forward to learning your point of view!