The argument over the ethics of the famous material’s iconic material is one of the only things that seem to be more ageless than a leather jacket.
Leather, like actual animal fur and feathers, is hotly disputed in the fashion business.
It is primarily manufactured from the skins of bulls and calves.
Veganism and the use of fewer animal products, whether in food or clothing, is frequently promoted as a long-term solution.
However, some industry professionals and environmentalists say that a high-quality sustainable fake for leather is difficult to come by.
Though it has been established that eating less meat and dairy and eating a more plant-based diet is healthier for the environment, customers may be misleading to believe that anything vegan, even pleather, is sustainable.
The majority of conventional vegan leathers are composed of polyurethane (PU) leather, which is neither sustainable nor biodegradable.
The concept of “vegan leather,” according to Tanja Hester, an environmental activist, journalist, and author of Wallet Activism is merely greenwashing.
“It’s just plastic,” she adds, “which is seldom recycled and hard to recycle in vegan leather form—virtually there’s no sustainable vegan leather.”
A thermoplastic polymer, PU leather is mostly utilized in vegan shoes and furnishings.
Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC leather, is another vegan leather option. Due to the quantity of energy, water, and chemicals needed to manufacture imitation leather products, both are frequently associated with the issue of microplastic contamination.
During the production process, hazardous chemicals are released into the air and water.
When some of the plastics are worn down, they might emit poisons.
Vegan leathers, particularly PU leather, may be found on quick fashion websites, including those from businesses like Shein, which have been chastised for being low-quality and unsustainable.
Because real leather needs locating the proper animals with the correct skin and several steps of artisan techniques, the material is easier to manufacture and less expensive.
Hester advises animal lovers to look for secondhand, high-quality leather products such as boots or purses that will endure for years.
Long-lasting materials, she claims, are preferable to cheap vegan leathers that would lay in landfills for generations.
“It’s reasonable that many people are drawn to vegan leather because they care about animal welfare, but they’d make a different decision if they realized it’s just petroleum-based plastic,” she adds.
“It’s a product that contaminates the employees who make it.”
According to Ana Kannan, the creator, and CEO of Toward, an ethical and environmentally conscious luxury purchasing platform, there may not be a fully sustainable leather choice.
One is of fast-fashion quality and is made entirely of plastics, while the other is made in a polluting cattle sector.
She claims that if the most readily available substitute leather is made of polymers, there is no perfect answer.
Some manufacturers, on the other hand, have already started working on ways to keep the leather out of landfills once a jacket or pocketbook is no longer in use.
“An excellent example is Stella McCartney. They’re utilizing KOBA, which is made up of [about] 40% recycled polyester, according to her.
“Regenerated leather—basically [animal] leather that has been used before—is another option.”
Kannan is also enthusiastic about plant-based leather.
Numerous firms use the long strands of pineapple leaves and feel them together to make the leather-like material, including Piatex.
Because pineapple trees are produced only for their fruit, the pineapple-based leather makes use of plant components that would otherwise be discarded.
Customers frequently respond to the product by wanting to understand more about the environmental implications and quality of sustainable materials, according to Libie Motchan, co-founder of Fulton, a firm that manufactures insoles for shoes using sustainable cactus leather.
“I didn’t know how important it is to customers, and how ready they are to prioritize it, ask questions, and understand where their products come from,” she adds.
In response to customer requests, Motchan has tested materials for biodegradability and compostability, as opposed to actual leather, which does not disintegrate when treated with chrome or other metals.
“We’re starting a life cycle study of the products,” she adds, “and I think it will give us a better understanding of its end-to-end life and impact.” “We saw a chance to do something different.”
When in doubt, search your closet or buy secondhand before investing in a new leather jacket, whether faux or real.
If you truly need something new, do some study to discover something that matches your style and moral code—demand for better, more ecologically friendly items is the ultimate fuel for better, more environmentally friendly products.