Animal agriculture: a leading cause of deforestation, water and air pollution, and human-made greenhouse gases. Animal-based leathers make up a significant portion of the animal agriculture industry, and by purchasing leather, not only do we shun sustainability, but we're also promoting animal cruelty. Enter vegan leather. This alternative is an excellent substitute for animal leather in all aspects, from shoes and handbags to leather jackets and more. But is vegan leather durable enough to be worth the investment? Keep reading to find out.
What Is Vegan Leather Made From?
Traditionally, vegan leather was made with almost completely plastic-based materials. Not so long ago, pleather was a cheaper and more ethical alternative. Pleather is created by sewing a plastic sheet onto fabric. Unfortunately, plastic is derived from oil, a nonrenewable resource, making plastic a poor alternative. However, there have recently been surges in creativity when it comes to vegan leather alternatives that are almost completely plant-based. The variety of vegan leather products is astounding. Here are just a few of the many options that are taking the vegan community by storm:
- Mushroom leather
- Pineapple leather
- Flower leather
- Apple peel leather
- Cactus leaf leather
- Corn leather
- Wood leather
- Banana leather
- Coffee leather
- Grass leather
- Recycled paper leather
- Bioengineered yeast leather
- Fungi leather
- Coconut leather
Even though these leathers are almost always created with a mix of polyurethane (a plastic-based resin), they still have a much lower impact than traditional leather. This is because animal-based leathers require the breeding, raising, and killing of animals, which takes astounding amounts of food, water, and energy. These same high levels of energy and water aren't required to grow and harvest plants. Clearly, the industry has made massive leaps since the days of pleather.
Natural Vegan Leather vs Non-Natural Vegan Leather
There are two types of vegan leather, natural and non-natural. Natural vegan leather doesn't use PVC or other plastics in the production process. This makes the shoes much more environmentally friendly because they will take far less time to biodegrade than those made with plastic. Additionally, there is no need to source plastic for the creation of the shoes, making them a much more environmentally friendly option. Non-natural vegan leather uses a mix of natural alternatives and plastic to create a shoe that more closely resembles traditional leather and lasts a bit longer than the natural versions. Keep in mind that when purchasing vegan leather, it's important to look at the production methods. Although a company might boast about their plastic-free leather, they could still use production methods that are bad for the workers and the environment. Do your research to make sure you're purchasing from a truly ethical and sustainable brand.
Is Vegan Leather Durable?
A cute clutch or belt you wear once in a blue moon is one thing, but shoes need to be durable enough to handle whatever situations the day or night throws at you. And so the question remains: are pineapple, cactus leaves, and other vegan leather alternatives as durable as animal skin? The quick answer: almost. Just as you would care for animal-based leather products, you should care for vegan leather products. With proper care, vegan leather products can last anywhere from two to five years, depending on the amount of wear and tear they see. This might not be quite the same length as animal-based leather, but when factoring in the sustainability and animal rights element, most people find it a reasonable price to pay. Additionally, trends come and go so quickly that in two to five years you'll probably want a new pair of shoes. Vegan leather is still a relatively new invention when you compare it with animal leather. Give it a few years, and it's highly likely that the industry will thrive and create truly long-lasting leather alternatives.
Affordability of Vegan Leather
Although vegan leather lasts anywhere from two to five years, it's more affordable than animal leather. Of course, there are brands like Stella McCartney, which can easily break the bank, but for the most part, the majority of vegan leather products are much more affordable. That being said, many brands create very durable products that will cost you about the same as traditional leather. So really, you need to ask yourself if vegan leather is durable enough for you. In a world where a two-dollar Forever 21 shirt falls apart after one wash, vegan leather shoes that can last two to five years is very comparable with traditional leather products.
How to Care for Vegan Leather
When you purchase a pair of vegan leather shoes, you'll receive specific instructions from the brand on how to care for them. Because vegan leather is so diverse in materials, as you can see from the list above, each type will require different care. Some brands might recommend a vegan wax to ensure the longevity and suppleness of your vegan leather purchase, while others might simply advocate for a wet cloth to remove any dirt. With proper care, vegan leather should retain the original shine and flexibility that makes it the perfect alternative to animal-based leather.
Shop Vegan Leather Shoes Today
It's estimated that the vegan leather industry will be worth $85 billion by 2025. So if you're still on the fence about vegan leather shoes because you're wondering, "is vegan leather durable," remember that the industry is seeing major growth. Vegan leather is not only durable, but it's also more sustainable and ethical than animal-based leather. Start shopping today!