Vegan Leather: To buy or not to buy?

Over the past few years, the fashion industry has made incredible strides in materials innovations, making leather alternatives plentiful. This is great news for the vegans out there! But, buyer beware: not all vegan leather products are equal when it comes to their impact. Choosing to eliminate animal products from your wardrobe and your life, in general, can be motivated by a number of factors, ranging from animal protection to minimizing environmental impact. Let's explore vegan leather a bit more so you can make an informed decision!

Vegan leather ingredients

If you're opting for vegan leather as a way to prioritize animal protection, you can now find options that utilize organic and plant-based materials, like apple, pineapple, or mushroom, to create alternatives to leather. These materials are often a byproduct of the food and beverage industry; however, some are grown specifically for the purpose of becoming fabric. Pineapple leather uses the leaf from the pineapple plant; mushroom leather uses a fungus developed and grown specifically for the fabric; and grape leather is made with waste from winemaking.

Audrey Bag in Sustainable Vegan Apple Leather Cognac on wearwell made by O My Bag

Made in Italy, the Audrey Bag in Vegan Apple Leather is made from AppleSkin, which uses the waste from the local food industry. The pulp, stems, skin, and other fruit waste are ground into a powder, mixed with polyurethane (which we’ll get into below!), and made into a liquid material. This liquid is then applied to a tear-resistant cotton fabric and forms a coating that can be molded into various textures to emulate natural leather.

Pretty cool, right? If you’re opting for vegan leather for environmental reasons, keep reading - there are a few more things to consider!

Plastic Free Canvas Tote sustainable ethical wearwell plastic doesn't go with my outfit
Plastic’s evolving role in vegan leather

If you think "pleather" is a thing of the past, think again! Most vegan leather can actually be sneaky fast fashion greenwashing. Even if it's plant-based, it often has a plastic coating or plastic incorporated with the organic material: polyurethane (PU) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Most leather alternatives are produced with a form of polyurethane for durability. While this may sound disappointing, there is a  lot happening today in textile innovation, including active research into plastic alternatives. 

These plastic coatings can cause vegan leather to shed microplastics, adding yet another element to consider when weighing what's more sustainable: natural leather or vegan leather?

Eva Everday Clutch from Purse & Clutch sold by wearwell sustainable vegetable tanned leather
Navigating the conundrum 

Ultimately, there are trade-offs to consider when purchasing vegan leather products instead of natural leather. Here are our tips for shopping sustainably with ease:

Think long term! Leather alternatives are often less durable than natural leather and age in a way that sheds plastic. The longer something lasts and the longer it remains in your wardrobe, the more you will minimize your overall consumption. 

If your hesitations about natural leather are primarily environmental, look for leather products that produce in sustainable ways. Try out a bag from Purse & Clutch or O My Bag, two wearwell brand partners that use vegetable tanned, natural leather scraps, or recycled leather. By doing so, they create quality natural leather products that keep waste out of landfill and renew existing material.

Hermelinda Macrame Bag sustainable ethical vegan from Mercado Global sold on wearwell

Want to avoid new natural leather and plastic content, too? We’ve got to hand it to quality organic cotton canvas for sticking by us through thick and thin! Take a look at the Plastic Free Tote Bag for a classic canvas tote or the unique Hermelinda Macrame Bag for a fashion-forward cotton bag.

Sustainable artisan woven rattan Maly Bag on wearwell made by Manava

Opt for the woven rattan trend! Another vegan material with a long history of use in bag making is dried plants, like rattan or water hyacinth. When woven, these natural materials create sturdy and lightweight and beautiful bags.The Nat Woven Tote and the Maly Bag are both fully vegan and absolutely adorable! 

Nat Woven Tote rattan artisan made sustainable on wearwell

There are so many ways to care for all living things on our planet and it is important to make an informed choice about how to choose which impact we want to make! Want to see more vegan styles for your wardrobe? Explore our Vegan Style collection!

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