Vegan Leather

by Albert Varkki updated 05-24-2023

vegan leather chair

Vegan leather is another name for faux leather, leatherette, imitation leather, and synthetic leather. They are all the same thing, well, almost! While some fake leather fabrics contain animal byproducts, vegan leather is made purely from plastics and plant-based materials, with zero animal byproducts.

In recent years, vegan leather has become the most popular fabric for eco-conscious fashion designers such as Stella McCartney and iconic brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Dolce Gabbana all use vegan leather in their luxury handbag collections.

As most vegan leathers contain plastics, the jury is out as to whether they are more eco-friendly than genuine leather alternatives. But they are certainly more animal-friendly and essential for anyone following a vegan diet.

Shop online, and you’ll find vegan leather jackets, vegan leather sneakers, vegan leather boots, vegan leather furniture, and vegan leather bags to suit every budget. It’s on-trend and very much in style.

Is Vegan Leather More Eco-Friendly than Genuine Leather?

While manufacturers worldwide are busy developing vegan leathers made from all-natural materials, most vegan leather in circulation today is made from either polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Both of these materials are plastic, and as such, many claim that faux leather is less environmentally friendly than genuine leather. But PETA disagrees!

According to a report on the PETA website, cow leather products contribute more to greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, and water pollution than synthetic alternatives. They also have ten times the negative impact on the environment than any plant-based vegan leather.

There are two sides to this story, and neither side is willing to back down on the eco-friendliness of vegan leather. We’ll let you decide!


How Durable is Vegan Leather?

Vegan leather is surprisingly durable for synthetic fabric, but it doesn’t have the strength, elasticity, or durability of genuine leather due to its multi-layer construction. Vegan leather sneakers and boots will likely scratch and scuff easier than real leather alternatives, and vegan leather furniture is more like to peel, but if you look after your faux leather products, they can last for many years.

vegan leather backpack

Does Vegan Leather Stretch Easily?

No. Vegan leather is not nearly as elastic as genuine leather, and while it may stretch a little, it is more likely to crack under pressure.

What to Consider When Comparing Vegan Leather vs Genuine Leather

Vegan leather is more realistic than ever, but there are many things to consider when comparing it to genuine leather. Here are some of the most notable differences between the two types of material:

Vegan leather is considerably lighter than animal leather, making it a popular choice for lightweight jackets and high-fashion clothing.

Vegan leather is thinner than genuine leather, which makes it easier to work with, but it also makes it less durable than the real thing.

Genuine leather products can last decades with regular care and maintenance, whereas the shelf life for vegan leather is much shorter. Faux leather shoes typically last one to two years, and vegan leather sofas for just three to five years.

As vegan leather products do not last as long as genuine leather products, we replace them more often; this demands more resources, greenhouse emissions, and plastic pollution. In terms of environmental impact, high-quality real leather products are kinder on the planet.


Genuine leather handbags, sectionals, and armchairs develop a beautiful patina over time; they improve as they age. This isn’t so for vegan leather products. If anything, they lose their chic leather appearance and the initial shine that made them look as good as the real thing.

Vegan leather cannot breathe like genuine leather and can feel sweaty or cold when temperatures fluctuate.

Vegan leather is considerably cheaper than genuine leather. This is perhaps its biggest selling point. You can expect to pay five or even ten times more for a faux leather handbag than a full-grain leather alternative. The same applies to shoes, sofas, and jackets.

However, buy a designer vegan leather bag from the likes of Stella McCartney, Nanushka, or Matt & Nat, and you could pay as much as you would for a genuine leather bag. The average Stella bag costs more than $1,300, with some models costing $2,000 and above.

Then there are the fashion designers, such as South Korean favorite Rejina Pyo, who mix vegan leather with genuine leather to make their products more aesthetically pleasing and affordable. We love the idea, but a true vegan would never wear such products!

How Sustainable is Vegan Leather?

Is vegan leather sustainable? Is it kinder on the planet than animal leather? The jury is still out. Manufacturing both types of leather have a negative impact on the environment, so we can only consider those made from natural, plant-based materials as truly sustainable.

Related articles:

What Are The Benefits of Vegan Leather?

If you are a vegan or enthusiastic about animal rights, vegan leather is an obvious choice, but not everyone understands the benefits of faux leather. Here we list a few:

  • Vegan leather made from plant-based materials or plastics is 100% animal by-product free.
  • You can dye it almost any color to complement any interior design project.
  • Vegan leather products are considerably cheaper than genuine leather.
  • Vegan leather is cruelty-free.
  • It is easier to clean and maintain than real leather.

How Genuine Leather is Made

We all know that genuine leather comes from animals, but do you know how it is made? It’s not a process that many of us think about, but we think people should know where their leather handbags, sofas, and shoes are coming from, so we’ve outlined the process below.

An estimated 70% of all genuine leather used to make clothes, furniture, bags, and shoes comes from cattle (cows) as a by-product of animals raised for food. Rather than send the animal hides to landfill, manufacturers skillfully remove the hides from the carcass and prepare it for use using the following four processes:


Each hide is carefully cleaned to remove all traces of wool, hair, and any connective tissues.


The second step in producing genuine leather is tanning to give it the texture and structure we associate with leather. Manufacturers typically use vegetable tannins or chrome-based tannins, although many now use chrome-free tannins to protect and stabilize the hide.


Milling helps soften the hide while enhancing the natural grain structure.


In this final step, manufacturers apply waxes, dyes, oils, embossing, patterns, and surface protection, leaving the leather beautifully finished and ready to transform into a designer handbag, leather sofa, or stylish sneakers.

Should I Buy Vegan Leather or Genuine Leather?

While both vegan and genuine leather comes with an extensive list of benefits, only you can decide which is best for your next purchase. If you are a vegan, the choice is easy, but if not, budget, and personal preference will be your deciding factors.

If you decide to go with vegan leather, choose products made from plant-based materials rather than plastic. They are kinder on the planet and much less likely to contain toxins that could be harmful to your health.

If genuine leather is your preference, shop around and investigate the ethical practices of the brands you are interested in purchasing from. Animal welfare should always be a priority, and those who follow strict government guidelines will be happy to prove their compliance.

Is Vegan Leather Similar to Genuine Leather in Appearance?

Yes! High-quality vegan leather is incredibly realistic, and you’ll have to look twice to see that it is not real. However, it won’t age as well as genuine leather, and you may find that you need to replace your favorite bag every one to two years, unlike a genuine leather bag that could last you a lifetime


We hope you enjoyed our article on vegan leather.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments, or email Von Baer at

Browse related leather pages here.

Author: Albert Varkki
Albert Varkki is the co-founder of Von Baer. He understands leather products as a consumer, supplier, and a manufacturer, helping you with the inside knowledge you need, to choose the perfect leather product for you. Connect on Linkedin

We always aim to have the highest editorial standards, and only publish accurate information on our website.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.