Leather vs. Vegan Leather: Making Ethical Fashion Choices
Genuine leather has been the fashion mainstay in bags for centuries now. After all, nothing exudes luxury, quality, and durability like real leather. But with consumer preferences veering towards sustainability, the meaning of fashion-forward has evolved into something that is durable and eco-friendly—with vegan leather being one such popular choice.
So, where do we stand today on the leather vs. vegan leather debate, and which of the two fabrics is a better choice for making bag purchases? We elaborate on it below.
The Leather Conundrum
Despite being symbolic of elegance and luxury, leather has been garnering controversy as it is made from animal (mostly cattle) skin. While plenty of people conjecture that it is a by-product of the meat industry and that a fall in its market demand is unlikely to make a dent in carbon emissions, it isn’t entirely true.
To make bags out of leather, the animal skin undergoes extensive chemical tanning, which is resource and energy-intensive and results in massive sludge waste. Moreover, these chemicals are highly carcinogenic, especially chromium1, which gets dumped untreated in waterways, causing environmental pollution.
But is vegan leather the way out?
Substituting Out Leather for Vegan Leather
With Stella McCartney designing bags out of vegan leather and celeb endorsements from Serena Williams, synthetic leather has been making inroads as the preferred ethical fashion choice. Besides, with 15% of global consumers already concerned with sustainability and their number set to rise to 50%2, this allegedly eco-friendly faux leather is set to experience even higher growth.
But what exactly is vegan leather, and is it indeed sustainable?
The Sustainability Barometer of Vegan Leather
At its heart, vegan leather is leather that is made without the use of animal skin, certifying its cruelty-free nature. However, there are different ways of going about making this synthetic leather.
Customarily, vegan leather is made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane (PU), aka plastic, which does not exactly spell out eco-friendly. In fact, PVC is touted as the single-most environmentally damaging plastic because it isn’t easily biodegradable3 and aggravates the creation of microplastics, which are extremely harmful to our health.
However, the rise of plant-based leather has been an absolute game changer. Essentially, this sustainable leather alternative is made from plant sources like cacti, pineapple leaves, apple scraps, palm leaves, and mycelium.
For instance, Desserto, a cactus-based vegan leather, results in a whopping 164,650% water savings compared to real leather and a 190% savings versus PVC leather4.
Leather vs. Vegan Leather: The Final Stand
While animal leather hasn’t fallen completely out of fashion, vegan leather has definitely become the trendiest fabric choice, owing to its cruelty-free and relatively eco-friendly nature. However, if you are solely guided by sustainability, then bio-materials (plant-based) vegan leather should be your go-to.
Are you contemplating which leather bag to buy next? Head over to Moglix Fashion for vegan leather bags that are both eco-friendly and durable. Know more