Curious About Vegan Leather? Here's What You Need to Know

As POPSUGAR editors, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. If you buy a product we have recommended, we may receive affiliate commission, which in turn supports our work.

Vegan leather (also called faux leather) has, admittedly, not always had the best of reputations among fashion enthusiasts. But as the appetite for more sustainable practices continues to grow, more and more brands and designers have once again started working with the material. Perhaps once regarded as glorified plastic — and a cheap way to re-create some of our favorite '90s looks — faux leather has been transformed over the past few years.

Now one of the most talked about fabrics within the sustainability sphere, vegan leather is used by some of the most reputable sustainable brands and boutiques out there, and it's easy to see why. A far cry from what it used to be, faux leather looks and feels nearly identical to the real thing, so it's become pretty difficult to tell the difference between the two materials. And with the leather look being one of the biggest trends of 2020, the industry's newfound love for the vegan option couldn't have come at a better time.

Ahead, keep reading to learn more about what vegan leather is, where it comes from, and understand the differences between the material and its real counterpart. And if you're looking to add more vegan leather pieces to your wardrobe, we've also included some of our favorite styles for you to shop, too.

What Is Vegan Leather, and Where Does It Come From?
Getty | Melodie Jeng

What Is Vegan Leather, and Where Does It Come From?

Vegan leather is a material that mimics real leather, but that is created from either synthetic or plant-based materials instead of animal skins. Also called "faux" or "synthetic" leather, vegan leather is most commonly made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane (PU), two plastic polymers that help give the crinkled effect of real leather.

Over the past few years, however, PVC and PU have been falling out of favor due to the environmental challenges they can present, and have started being replaced by more sustainable materials that can be made out of natural resources such as pineapple leaves, apple peels, other fruit waste, recycled plastic, and cork.

What’s the Difference Between Vegan Leather and Real Leather?
Getty | Claudio Lavenia

What’s the Difference Between Vegan Leather and Real Leather?

The principal difference between the two fabrics is that genuine leather is made from animal skins, while faux leather is made from synthetic or plant-based materials before being treated and dyed to create the color and texture.

Due to its nature, real leather is unique and often features inconsistent pores and marks, while faux leather, as a man-made fabric, tends to be uniform.

Durability is also something that needs to be taken into account when weighing up the pros and cons between the two fabrics: when cared for properly, real leather can last for years, if not decades, while faux leather is generally a bit more delicate.

Where to Shop For Vegan Leather Pieces
Getty | Christian Vierig

Where to Shop For Vegan Leather Pieces

Shopping for good quality, faux leather pieces has never been so easy. While several high-end brands such Stella McCartney and Nanushka are renowned for their sustainability practices and use of faux leather, a whole host of other labels have also started using the material. Brands like Zara, H&M, Dr. Martens, Topshop and ASOS are now all offering vegan leather options within their collections.