Vegan, or faux leather, has been around in different formats for years, especially as a material used for manufacturing handbags. While faux leather used to be cheap, flimsy, and full of harmful chemicals, those days are mostly gone.
Technology has come a long way since PVC was first invented, so the market is now full of a vast array of different, cruelty-free ways to accessorise using faux leather. Read on to find out all about vegan faux leather.
Vegan bags are made with absolutely no animal products. This means every part of them; from the covering material on the outside, such as vegan leather bags, to the very glue that is used is cruelty free. Vegan handbags aren’t just about no animal products however. Many companies now try to use material that is as sustainable as possible and ensure that their bags are made by workers who are being paid a fair wage.
Of course, not every company is like that, so it is worthwhile doing your research and making sure that the brand you are buying from isn’t using the vegan label while still supporting sweatshop conditions. Eco-friendly accessories are just one way that we can move forward into a more sustainable future.
Vegan handbags can be made from a whole variety of materials. The most common is faux leather. Yet you can also get vegan handbags that are made from a range of other faux fabrics, from recycled rubber, to waxed cotton. Even cork has been used to make environmentally sustainable bags for us to enjoy – guilt free.
Vegan handbags tend to come in one of two main types. The first are the bags that try to imitate leather using some form of faux leather. These try and look as close to the real thing as possible. The other type of vegan bags are those that move away from the leather look entirely, be it canvas, cork, or cotton.
Vegan leather is a replication leather that isn’t made with animal products. Some of this ‘pleather’ as it is sometimes known looks so close to the real thing that is can cause many people to ask - is faux leather vegan in its entirety? The answer is that yes, it is.
No matter how real it looks, faux leather isn’t made with any animal products. My only advice is to always check the labels of items to make sure! Vegan leather is used as a cruelty-free alternative to real leather, and many people feel that, just like fur, real leather shouldn’t be used to make handbags or accessories at all.
How to make vegan leather isn’t the easiest of questions to answer, because there are so many different types available. Traditionally, and the one you see most often is Polyvinyl chloride. Otherwise known as PVC, it is a plastic that is coated onto the back of a polyester layer of fabric.
While PVC is vegan, there are other reasons that it maybe isn’t the best alternative. For one, this is the material that gives vegan leather its cheap reputation. PVC has been mass produced to such an extent that it is essentially a thin layer of plastic with a fabric covering. This doesn’t survive the wear and tear of everyday life very well, and so animal leather has kept its reputation for being strong and long-lasting, to the detriment of animals everywhere.
Vegan leather can be made in other ways as well however. Here at LaBante London, our handbags are manufactured with vegan leather that is made from recycled water bottles. These are spun into yarn to make fabric. We also use vegetable leather for our premium brands, which is a by-product of vegetable waste. These products are not only 100% vegan, but they are eco-friendly and sustainable as well.
By this stage, you’re probably all wondering; is vegan leather safe for the environment? When it comes to PVC, the answer is, unfortunately, no. As PVC is made from plastic, it comes with the same problem as all other plastic products.
The first issue is the amount of energy, not to mention chemicals, that it takes to produce. When PVC is made, the process itself releases harmful dioxins. It is also treated with chemicals known as phthalates. These phthalates are damaging not only to animal life, but to humans as well.
PVC also has the same issues as all other plastics when it comes to being biodegradable. PVC isn’t biodegradable at all. This is made worse by the fact that PVC clothing and accessories are treated like they are disposable because they are so cheap and flimsy. This means that they are thrown away at an incredible rate, where they end up on landfills. As they start to break down slightly in the sun, this then releases its own set of chemicals.
Don’t despair however. New technology means that PVC and alternatives are being made in more and more sustainable ways. There are also brands out there that use thicker, more durable PVC, such as the leatherette used on sofas. These alternatives aren’t biodegradable, but they are designed to be used for just as long as real leather. When it comes to accessories however, looking for vegan leather that isn’t PVC is the eco-friendliest thing to do.
Faux leather fabric for clothing has been around for years, and some women just can’t do without their pleather leggings! However, with the environmental concerns over PVC, how can a vegan ever use it? There are ecological concerns with all types of leather, real or vegan, but ultimately, faux leather contains no animal products, and causes no cruelty to animals.
As mentioned, brands are doing all they can to make faux leather as sustainable as possible, with more and more innovative ideas being produced. One of these is kombucha, which is made from the same concoction as the increasingly popular tea. The great thing about kombucha leather is that is can be composted after use. Now that really is some eco-leather!
You might be wondering whether vegan leather is the right way to go at all.
Some environmentalists still advocate the use of real leather, due to the harmful effects PVC has on the environment, and the fact that leather is seen as a one-time purchase. Yet vegan leather is still better than real leather for the simple fact that it is vegan. The type of PVC you purchase is also important. PVC has a bad reputation due to all of the flimsy garments out there. If you shop carefully however, you can find PVC products that have been made to a very high standard and are very durable.
That being said, real leather continues to be popular because there isn’t really another material like it, which is why faux leather tries to imitate it so much. Real leather is very expensive to produce and comes with its own host of environmental issues, aside from the fact that it comes from an animal.
Tanning leather is the only way to turn it from animal hide, to a product that is usable. This uses a chemical called chromium which is very harmful to the environment. The run-off from this has to be treated before it can be released into the water system again, which uses up even more energy and water.
With new innovations in the vegan leather industry happening all the time, it is getting more and more sustainable to make a good leather imitation that is just like the real thing. Faux leather is also much easier to dye as the dye can be added during the actual production process. This means that you can get a wide range of colours without a lot of effort, and without the harmful tanning process.
Vegan leather, when it is well made and not single layer PVC, is surprisingly durable. A well-made pleather jacket will be just as good as one of real leather.
Because it isn’t made of animal hide, it doesn’t need to be treated regularly to keep it supple. Faux leather is also resistant to cracking like real leather. Of course, certain care should still be taken. For example, if you do own a vegan leather handbag, you shouldn’t hang it by its straps. You should also avoid leaving vegan leather products out in direct sunlight, as the heat can affect their quality.
All in all, just take care of your items the way you would with other products. Don’t be rough, but make sure you still use them!
Vegan leather is waterproof, but depending on what product you are using, some react better to water.
If you have a vegan leather jacket for example, it will have an extra waterproof coating. Many handbags however are not designed to get very wet, and so while they are waterproof, they shouldn’t be brought out in a heavy rainstorm. And remember, always leave faux leather products to air dry. Just like real leather, they don’t agree with a tumble dryer!
How to clean vegan leather is a question that is asked time and time again by consumers. The answer is very straight forward, and similar to how you clean real leather. You can buy faux leather cleaning wipes, however wipes for real leather will work just as well in this case. Gently rub the wipe all over the faux leather, paying particular attention to any stains.
Another solution for how to clean faux leather is with a mild detergent. One of the issues with both vegan and real leather is that it absorbs things such as ink, oil and wine. So, if you are wondering how to remove dye stains from faux leather, the solution is lukewarm water with a small amount of a mild detergent in it. Wipe down the back with an undyed cloth, and then wipe again with a cloth and only water. Repeat a final time with a completely dry cloth.
If you can’t do this immediately after a spill, try and get some talcum powder or cornstarch onto a greasy stain. This acts as a natural faux leather stain remover and you can wipe it off once you get a chance.
Another top tip for caring for vegan leather is to avoid heat. If your item does get wet, always leave it to air dry. Never use any form of artificial heat on vegan leather, as this can damage it.
Lots of companies now sell vegan leather handbags and accessories. It’s always recommended that anyone who wants to make their purchase as environmentally friendly as possible researches what the leather is made from, the working conditions where it is produced.
Here at LaBante London, 25 recycled plastic bottles go into every one of our vegan leather handbags. We focus on sustainability as well as a zero waste packaging system. When you carry a LaBante London handbag, you know that the people who made it are working for fair pay, and in good conditions.
Check out our range of eco friendly faux leather bags today!