Vegan v Leather
So real leather v fake leather. Which is better? Welcome to the complex world of ethical fashion!
I was looking for inspiration a couple of nights ago when I came across a black tote bag on a popular fashion website. I clicked on the bag to take a closer look and up popped a warning. Yes WARNING!!!! The warning said “This bag is made from vegan leather and may contain chemicals that cause cancer”. What! Until I read that I was just like everyone else thinking that vegan leather, may be a “eco friendly” alternative.
So I quickly got googling and found out that "vegan leather" (also known as faux or synthetic leather and, formerly, pleather) is not such an earth-friendly alternative. Although a PVC handbag doesn’t require an animals skin, it isn’t what you think it may be. A chemical website tells me that "polyurethane is formed by reacting a polyol with a diisocyanate or a polymeric isocyanate in the presence of suitable catalysts and additives".
After reading that, it seems that Vegan Leather is about as natural as a packet of Burger Rings :0). But it's what PU puts back into the environment that's the bigger issue here, such as the solvents that are used in producing polyurethane-based synthetic leather which are highly toxic. And unlike leather made from, say, a cow, a product made out of PU also won't biodegrade anytime soon, either, and neither can it be recycled.
As many of you know I grew up on a farm. I put myself in the meat eating category, but also count myself as environmentally conscious. While sustainability is central to the true vegan philosophy, I think, "in practice it often runs a poor second to the animal-free element". At NIKKI WILLIAMS we are all for sustainability. Our brand designs handbags and accessories that will last the test of time, meaning we want you to wear your bag time and time again. In other words, all our bags, clutches and wallets are styles that will carry over for seasons to come. So simply by design we are avoiding the disposable fast-fashion, not to mention we are also making use of a by-product (the leather).
So there it is. The vegan leather industry has been coasting for too long on an undeserved reputation and it's no longer enough to know what it isn't anymore. The industry as a whole needs to take the next step and live up to what it claims to be—a viable, consistent and transparent alternative to the leather trade.