Real Leather vs. Vegan Leather


Sustainability is the biggest trend in fashion — and vegan leather is generating buzz. The fashion industry has been weighed down  by carrying the responsibility for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions and being the third largest polluting industry next to food and construction. In response, industry leaders in fashion have been innovating their processes to meet the demands of an increasingly eco-conscious consumer base. Enter vegan leather.

Vegan leather is one of the innovations in vegan fashion, which addresses animal cruelty in its production. These plant- and plastic-based alternatives to leather circumvent the pressing impacts of real leather sourcing on the environment and animal welfare.

Of course, there are significant differences between real leather and vegan leather in terms of quality, appearance, and environmental impact. Here’s how they compare. 



Real leather is created from tanned animal skins. They’re taken from a variety of animals including crocodiles, snakes, cows, zebras, kangaroos, horses, and pigs.

Vegan leather, on the other hand, may be plant-based or created from plastic polymers, like polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). They may also come from more natural sources. Plant-based vegan leathers include those made from pineapples, cork oak trees, and apple peels. Another sustainable source includes recycled plastic leather. 


Environmental impact 

Real leathers are sourced from animals and undergo a tanning process that involves toxic chemicals and excessive water.

One of the most common appeals of vegan leather is its greater environmental sustainability, but this isn’t always the case. Vegan leather made from plastics is petroleum-based and can be just as harmful as real leather because of the chemical-intensive production process. Many brands, however, are turning to plant-based leathers. Some have also adopted vegetable tanning, which uses vegetable tannins in the tanning process to displace water. 


Look and quality 

Real leather is the highest quality leather available on the market. Also known as full grain leather, it’s taken from the top layer of an animal’s hide, which naturally contains imperfections favored in fashion. It’s also an indicator that the leather is genuine. Its thickness makes it difficult to work with real leather, but what comes out of it is heightened durability and therefore longevity.

Vegan leather, on the other hand, doesn’t form a patina, or the naturally weathered look that real leather takes on as it ages. It’s also less breathable since its pores are artificial. But all in all, the aesthetic appearance of vegan leather is essentially comparable to that of vegan leather. Just take a look at the stylish vegan leather accessories here on Carry Courage! 



Higher quality products made from real leather are expected to last longer. Real leather is also largely fire-resistant and becomes more breathable as it ages. This may result in a longer lifespan for your items which lowers your consumption. However, it’s important to note that the environmental costs of real leather may not be offset by this longevity.

Vegan leather may not have the same life-long properties as real leather. However, this is offset by the fact that vegan leather is usually less expensive than real leather. Beyond this, however, are the environmental costs that are significantly reduced with vegan leather.

Real leather has long been a status symbol in fashion, but where these values no longer hold up to the modern world, we’re lucky enough to have a wide range of sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives available. Thankfully, in this period when ethics play a huge part in aesthetics, we’re able to make fashion choices that make us feel good to wear. 



Written by Chey Anne Wilcox
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