What Is Vegan Leather? Is It Better Than Real Leather?

Time to rethink your choices!

With the passage of time and various campaigns on social media, we know that the movement for veganism and sustainability has arrived. Fashion and clothing are no exception. Fortunately, vegan leather has grown in popularity today as people have become more aware of how their decisions affect the environment.

But one cannot escape reality. Real leather, obtained by slaughtering animals, is present today all around us! It has a massive impact — an animal has to die for you to get/ wear/ use leather. Since real leather requires the death of an animal, many animal lovers refuse to wear it and are quite vocal against it.

However, some might also argue that real leather is simply a by-product of meat production, to debate the vegans and animal-lovers out there. But today, we’ll dive a little deeper to help you understand the difference between vegan and animal leather. It is then up to you to decide what is best for the environment and your conscience.

First Things First: Let’s Get The Terminology Right!

What Is Vegan Leather?

vegan leather and real leather
Watson & Wolfe

Around 2010, the term ‘vegan leather’ became popular in the fashion world. Celebrity designers such as Stella McCartney began designing high-end apparel and accessories without the use of animal leather. Since most designers adopted an ethical, vegan lifestyle, vegan leather has become synonymous with veganism.

Vegan leather, known as faux leather or a leather alternative, is a leather-like fabric created without harming animals. In simpler words, the term ‘vegan leather’ refers to the fact that its made without the use of any animal skins or animal by-products.

With traditional leather putting animal welfare and the environment in jeopardy, vegan leather is on the rise. In fact, by 2025, the vegan leather industry is expected to be worth $89 billion. Animal rights organizations have stated that no animal by-products should be used to produce clothing and accessories. You can avoid these animal welfare concerns entirely by avoiding real leather, just like people avoid using fur.

What Is Real Leather?

vegan leather and real leather
Mahi Leather

In a nutshell, real leather is animal leather, that can be found practically anywhere on the planet, today. Unfortunately, real animal skin is used to make this natural product. Over a billion animals are killed each year in the world as part of the real leather production process. The Pulse Fashion Report stated that animal-based materials occupy three of the top 5 most environmentally damaging materials, with cow leather being the worst. Thus, the meat industry is neither sustainable nor ethical in its current state.

Furthermore, it is one of the most significant sources of greenhouse gas pollution. Globally, meat accounts for nearly 60% of all greenhouse gases from food production. This includes most animals that are raised primarily for meat production, such as cows, pigs, goats, and sheep. Then there are exotic animals like alligators, kangaroos, ostriches, and snakes killed for their skin for leather production. Furthermore, the United States is the world’s largest producer of beef. According to Inside Climate News, the average American “consumes nearly three times the global average, at 57 pounds per capita.

Is Vegan Leather More Sustainable Than Real Leather?

vegan leather
Fashion Insiders

Yes! While some vegan leather is made of virgin plastic, the majority is made from natural materials or upcycled or recycled plastic. Furthermore, even if virgin plastic is used, the environmental impact is still less than animal leather.

Fortunately, vegan leather is now much more durable than animal leather, as well as more flexible, lightweight, and available in a wider range of colors. And, of course, it doesn’t involve animal cruelty.

[5:20 pm] Ryan D’souza

So, Why Is Vegan Leather Better?

vegan leather
Leaf Score

Vegan leather frequently outperforms its animal counterpart in terms of breathability, weatherproofing, uniformity, and weight. Its impact on animals and the planet has shifted many in its favor.

Environmental Impact – Real leather requires extensive treatment before manufacture, and these chemicals both harm the environment and reduce the leather’s biodegradability. On the other hand, vegan leather combines textiles and polyurethane (eco-friendly plastic) to create a more authentic leather feel that is less harmful to the planet.

Durability – Vegan leather is highly durable as it’s water-resistant, stain-resistant, and weather-resistant. Vegan leather products can withstand harsh weather conditions and show slight wear and tear over time.

Cost-Effectiveness– The various costs involved in the treatment and preparation of real leather require a higher price. When all costs are considered, from cattle rearing to final manufacturing stages, it is clear that vegan leather is easier to produce and more cost-effective.

No To Animal Cruelty– And lastly, since no animals are harmed or killed in the production or procurement of vegan leather, it is the best way to contribute to the protection of animals and the environment.

We hope you can make an informed decision with what you’ve read so far in this article. And to tip the scales, here are some plant-based and sustainable leather alternatives to spoil you for choice.

Some Sustainable Faux Leather Alternatives

vegan leather

The good news is that designers worldwide are creating beautiful vegan alternatives that are just as tough as leather and don’t cost the Earth. Check out these exciting sustainable leather alternatives that are challenging the leather industry!

Waxed Canvas and (Organic) Cotton:

non-toxic nail polish
Territory Supply

Traditionally used for jeans and bags, this stylish, versatile material is gaining traction and expanding into other clothing items. The wax is environmentally friendly and, like leather, protects you from the elements. Aside from being pliable and waterproof, waxed canvas or cotton is much easier to clean than animal leather. This means you save money on dry cleaning and the harmful chemicals that come with it!


vegan leather
The Sustainable Fashion Collective

Look no further than cork if you’re looking for a unique, durable, waterproof leather alternative. Cork’s popularity as a forward-thinking fashion material has recently skyrocketed. Cork is water-resistant, renewable, and completely recyclable. In addition, it is also durable, light, and simple to keep looking as good as new.


vegan leather
Advanced Textiles Source

Mushroom leather, believe it or not, could be the next big thing in sustainable materials! A type of fungus is used to make the organic textile – Muskin. The fungi can be grown to the precise size and shape required for designs. Of course, waterproofing is needed; but it doesn’t involve harmful chemicals, making this a biodegradable, eco-friendly alternative to leather.

Vegan leather can also be made from innovative and sustainable materials like pineapple leaves, apple peels, other fruit waste, and recycled plastic. This wide range of alternatives can clearly put leather manufacturers using animal skin to shame.

Vegan Leather Vs Real Leather: The Final Verdict

vegan leather

That concludes our hot debate. The definitive answer to the leather dilemma can be summed up in a single word – VEGAN, any day.

Firstly, the term itself is vegan. Secondly, it has more pros than animal leather. Now that you know how vegan and real leather are made, the pros and cons, and which is better for the environment, the decision is yours to make. We hope that your decision becomes easier now. Because, in the end, it boils down to one simple fact: an animal is killed in one procedure while no animal is killed in the other. Is there really any other question you should be asking yourself?

Subscribe to our newsletter

To receive updates on all things good and guilt-free!