Cruelty Free Belts

Vegan Leather vs Real Leather – What’s the Best Option?

vegan leather vs real leather


Vegan leather, more commonly referred to as imitation leather, it mimics leather, and has been available in a variety of forms for the last few years. In the initial days, imitation leather was very cheap and flimsy and contained copious amounts of toxic chemicals, but thankfully, those days are gone.



no animal testing vegan leather vs real leatherNowadays when we ask, if fake leather is authentic leather and upon studying the differences begin to discover that when comparing vegan leathers and traditional leather goods are harder and harder to tell apart. Technological development has grown to a great extent and resulted in the market overflowing with a wide array of cruelty-free products not supportive of the meat industry including vegan leather belts.



About Synthetic Leather, and is Vegan Leather Authentic Leather?



As a conscious consumer, you are likely to be concerned about how your buying choices are going to make an impact on the surroundings and the planet as a whole by adopting more sustainable fashion. This brings us to the question of what exactly synthetic leather is and draws a comparison between synthetic leather or fake leather vs authentic leather to decide which is better.



Artificial leather found its origin in Germany towards the fag end of the 19th century. With two consecutive wars taking a toll on the world economy, animal leather also became less. Thus, the Germans looked for an alternative and their endeavor gave birth to a primitive material produced from the treated pulp paper raw materials called Prestoff. It was used in several places like bags, belts, jackets, and a host of other items. But the synthetic material was not much durable and therefore didn’t become popular.



In 1920, the US Rubber Company created the first round of synthetic rubber made of synthetic materials and polyvinyl chloride that became famous all across the world. Users liked the certain products for its leather-like appearance and almost similar durability levels. But it was not until 2010 that the term vegan leather came into existence, and vegan leather production began. Plant-based leather products such as belts, jackets, wallets, and more at that time began to be manufactured. Vegan leather, as we know it today is made of a broad range of other materials like fake leather, synthetic fibers, leatherette, leaf leather, pleather, imitation leather, vegetable-tanned leather, and others. The general notion about Plant-based leather products is that they are created to imitate the look of authentic leather and manufactured without any kind of animal hides for animal welfare to abide by animal cruelty.



About Vegan Leather Production?



Synthetic leather production involves various types of chemicals like polyvinyl chloride and a completely distinct industrial process compared to authentic leather. The most common method of vegan leather production is to bond together a plastic-based coat for fabric support. Whether or not vegan leathers will be environmentally friendly is determined by the quality of plastic-based material is used in coating it.  This type of leather production has a negative environmental impact but is not as bad as animal slaughter.



While the use of PVC over the past few decades has declined to a great extent compared to the same in the 60s and the 70s, it is still in vogue in some fake leather manufacturing processes and has a bad environmental impact. This is a crucial aspect since PVC tends to release dioxins, a potential toxin in closed areas that is potentially dangerous when burnt. To add to the flexibility of the product, plasticizers such as phthalates are used. According to Greenpeace, phthalates are regarded as the most destructive type of plastic for the environmental impact which will cause micro plastic pollution alongside the pollution caused by fossil fuels which are causing even more carbon emissions of greenhouse gas emissions and are non-avoidable for human health, so they didn’t fall in the category of environmental friendliness. Carbon” is sometimes used as a shorthand for referring to CO2, or greenhouse gases in general, and it can also be used to express CO2 emissions of carbon emissions in terms of the amount of carbon in the CO2



A better and more modern alternative to this type of plastic is PU. And the most interesting factor about PU derived coating is that it is undergoing a lot of technical advancement for ruling out the negative sides. These include the release of hazardous toxins during the production process and the use of oil-based polymers using fossil fuels.



Regardless of how plant-based leathers appear to be, it doesn’t contain any animal remnants. This may make you question if Plant-based leather is authentic leather or full-grain leather which is made of animal skin.  Leather is made by animal by products but no other more sustainable leathers. 



What type of Leather is Better for the Environmental Impacts?



Since there are numerous kinds of vegetable tanned leather available, it is not the simplest of the questions to answer. And particularly considering the different types of ingredients used in the production of different items like leatherette belts. But if you consider PVC, it is definitely not the safest of the materials to use. This is because PVC is produced from plastic based and thus, it will give rise to the same problems for the environment as plastic.



The first problem is the amount of energy used including some toxic chemicals. When PVC is produced, the manufacturing procedure releases some harmful toxins. Moreover, PVC is not at all biodegradables. Another problem for the environment is that PVC clothing and other stuff are treated as if they are disposable since they are very cheap. It implies that if PVC products are thrown off at such a high rate, they will invariably lead to the formation of landfills. With the products starting to break down gradually in the sun, it leads to the release of chemicals.



But there is nothing to be hopeless about the growing production and use of plant-based leathers. Newer technology shows that PVC and other non-animal leathers are produced in sustainable procedures. There are some eco-friendly brands that produce durable and thicker versions of PVC, like the leatherette. While they are not biodegradable, they are produced to be used the same way as authentic leather. So, when looking for accessories like bags and belts, opting for vegan leather alternatives without PVC is the best choice available.



Vegan Leather vs Real Leather: which is better?



It’s obvious that you will want to know whether the option for fake leather the right direction is to makes sense. According to some environmentalists, using bona fide leather is still a better option than the vegan counterparts but not when you factor in the environmental impact. This is particularly true when you consider leather items as a one-sided investment.



With that being said, vegan leather is still a better option than the real one due to the single most important fact that it’s vegan. But the type of PVC used in the manufacturing process is very crucial. If you are a careful shopper, you can find a very high standard and durable variant of PVC leather. Real leather is nonetheless a much popular option since there is no other natural substance like it. That’s the reason why vegan leather is meant to imitate it to the greatest possible extent. Producing real leather is quite pricey and brings along a world of environmental impact and problems just as meat production does too, alongside the fact that it is animal sourced.



The leather tanning process, vegetable tanning process, or chrome tanning process is the only process of modifying it from an animal hide to a usable substance for producing a variety of accessories along with toxic by product. It calls for the use of chromium salts, a chemical that has a harmful environmental impact. The run-off derived from the processing needs to be properly treated before it is being released to the drainage system. As a result, the cost of water and energy also increasing so when inquiring, “is vegan leather real leather” the environmental damage must be factored into chrome tanning and other harmful by product.



tannery vegan leather vs real leatherContrasting the same with the processing used in the vegan leather industry, it’s incredible that they are becoming more sustainable over time. Now, you can see a number of the leather working group concerned about the environment rather than focusing on mere imitation of leather. It is comparatively easier to dye vegan leather than the dye can be added during the manufacturing process. It also ensures that a wide array of shades can be found in vegan products at exclusive deals.



Vegan Leather vs Genuine Leather



As is already highlighted, the real difference between real and fake leather lies in the sourcing and subsequent manufacturing process. Real leather is typically derived from animal hides such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, ox, and many others. On the other side, faux leather is a synthetic material primarily made from plastic material and treated with dye, PU, and wax for adding shade and texture to genuine leather products which release toxic particles. The latter is so close to its original counterpart, that you may sometimes wonder if vegan leather is actual leather or are they different from one another?



Choosing the right kind of fabric can bring about a good deal of difference in your comfort, aesthetic, and the planet that people opt for. And the timeless allure of leather in terms of its looks, grain, and texture is the real thing that most of us cannot ignore.



Authentic leather or leather made of natural materials is favored by racing car drivers, motorcyclists, and defense personnel for some true reasons over artificial leathers that can fully biodegrade. The main concern for using these real leather goods is much durable and minimize the risk of injury and these factors are less so with vegan leather. Moreover, the best and biggest source of real leather is top layer lambskin due to its soft and luxurious texture which offers an exuberance that’s meant production to last and is the best option and most sustainable option and withstand wear and this is a perfect solution for them which is not fully biodegrade.



The greatest advantage of real leather shoes is that they are highly durable. This means that your pair of non-vegan shoes will typically outlast those made of other substances, including PU, faux, or vegan leather. For instance, the iconic Dr. Marten’s Boots which became famous during the 1980s punk music period were originally designed and manufactured for the blue-collar workers of the factory. This is because they are extremely sturdy and capable of enduring most conditions easily. These boots were produced from original bovine leather and are resistant to oil and chemical. As a result, they can protect one’s feet from accidental loads and chemical spillage.



But these days, Dr. Marten’s boots are worn mostly as a fashion brands statement. Nonetheless, they are far more expensive compared to vegan plastic leather. However, they can hold their value more efficiently than accessories made of other substances. This implies, if you are willing to sell any of your real leather stuff, you can reap a higher selling price. If your real leather belt is in good condition, it can sell for a few hundred dollars, whereas a vegan leather belt may fetch you only a fraction of that amount as it is cheaper than real leather.



Thus, a leather item is considered more of an investment than some real thing you will dispose of in a few years. It will not make its way to any landfill site and damages environments, but it can be argued with being connected to animal agriculture that taking animal skins for leather will harm the environment more by ignoring animal welfare.



Pros of Real Leather



  • Extremely durable: It is tough yet highly pliable and can last a lifetime with good care.

  • Gives unmatched protection: It is resistant to fire and water and can offer insulation from heat, cold, and wind. The porous nature of leather makes it highly breathable.

  • More eco-friendly: Produced from natural substances and thus, it is bio-degradable when you discard them, and they are not heavy metals as well.

  • Ages gracefully: Real leather looks much better with time. When a leather accessory wears out, it develops a lovely patina which adds to the appearance of the leather.

  • Eternal style icon: Actual leather has always been a fashionable choice and brings along a timeless value of luxury and prestige.



Cons of Real Leather



  • Very expensive: Depending on the source and quality leather, a non-synthetic leather alternatives product is likely to be quite expensive on the second-hand faux leather is cheaper real leather, but the wear and tear is similar.

  • Needs a lot of care and maintenance: For retaining the look, feel, and texture, leather made of natural materials requires a lot of cleaning and conditioning. The care routine for some leather items can be so long drawn that it often goes to the extent of pampering.

  • No resistance to staining: Real leathers are porous in nature. Even though it can endure oil and different chemical spillage, it is susceptible to accidental spills due to its porousness.



Is Vegan Leather Real Leather? Is Vegan Leather a Sustainable Alternative?



To get steer clear manufacturers are looking for more innovative and scientific solutions for producing plastic free vegan options derived from other natural sources. Even though real thing is these products will still use fewer petroleum-based products, the consequences won’t be as detrimental as using crude PVC for the production process this pvc releases dioxins.



When you bring forth the topics like the fashion industry, leather industry, and meat industry it will always be very complicated. And thus, finding a black and white answer may seem almost impossible. This is because even the most thoughtfully designed process of manufacturing will lead to some environmental effects. Thus, you should factor in your individual values to decide whether you want to choose a leather working group. One person will be more ethical when they ask themselves if imitation leather is really leather and will prefer vegan leather because animal agriculture is not harmed in the manufacturing of vegan leather belts.



From coffee to banana to apple leather, there are several options of vegan leather available today. Let’s consider some of the most common types of vegan leather:



  • Pleather: More commonly known as PU leather, pleather is the commonest type of vegan leather-based products. It is made of thermoplastic polymers. But it’s worth noting that bi-cast leather is not truly vegan alternatives as it may have a layer of leather underneath the PU coat or exotic skins. Check out Cruelty-Free Belts’ Vegan Leather Belts.

  • PVC: It is processed through vinyl chloride polymerization. It is similar in nature to pleather but has a glossy texture.

  • Pinatex: This type of quality leather is made from pineapple leaf fibers and pineapple leaves while polylactic acid and resin are secondary ingredients. It is comparatively a newer variant and is commonly used in the production of imitation leather belts, bags, and wallets.

  • Cork leather: One of the most sustainable vegan leather alternatives to leather is cork leather. It is produced from the cork oak tree bark and water. The big part of this leather is stain and scratch resistance. Check out Cruelty-Free Belts’ Cork Belts.


So, when you are choosing between vegan leather and the meat industry leather, you will always want to go for the greener option. It has become much more easily accessible with large and small brands. Moreover, extensive research and advancement into the world of vegan leather have allowed complete control over how the finished products look and feel. From divergence to texture and composition, the other vegan leather alternatives have allowed us a better scope of aesthetics, styling, and sustainability.



Pros of Vegan Leather:



  • An affordable option: Owing to the materials used, vegan leather can be much more affordable than the meat industry and meat consumption. These leather products are produced at a mass scale, and this contributes to the low price.

  • UV resistant: Vegan leather is not going to fade away anytime soon.

  • Easy to care for and maintain: You can easily clean imitation leather by wiping it with a damp cloth. You won’t have to get it polished professionally unlike real leather. They are not only built to retain their natural sheen but also more resistant to stain owing to the low porosity levels.

  • Unmatched versatility: Since vegan leather is much lighter in weight, it is less restrictive compared to real leather. This allows it to be stitched in different forms and need not be broken into like real leather. Moreover, dying vegan leather with various shades is also possible.



Cons of Vegan Leather:



  • Less durability: Based on the quality of the synthetic materials used for producing vegan leather, sometimes, they can give a long way to tearing, punctures, and cracking with regular use.

  • Unbreathable fabric: When imitation leather is produced from poor quality PVC it is not much porous. As a result, the wearer is likely to sweat in hot and humid conditions. But as they are not porous, they tend to be thinner – thus offering less protection from outside heat.

  • Appears dull over time:  imitation leather doesn’t enhance its appearance over time. Rather it gets dull with the luster gradually shedding off.

  • May cause allergic reaction: Most people may develop sensitivity to the imitation leather fabric due to the various chemical treatments. Also, it may have a strong odor of rubber or plastic based materials.



Conclusion of: Is Vegan Leather Real Leather



Leather as a raw material has baggage of a controversial history. And it is highly questionable from a point of view of sustainability.  If you are vegan diet and you want cattle grazing long lasting, then for you there are a number of aspects to factor in when evaluating the vegan leather share and meat industry leather. These include waste management, toxic gas emissions, water usage, and most importantly, animal agriculture welfare. This invariably brings us to the topic of whether we should do away with meat production completely to prevent waste.



With animal skin and environmentally friendly being in question for a long-lasting time now, the popularity of vegan leather industry is on the rise. At this point, we know when asking “is imitation leather traditional leather”, that they are very different from one another. The non-meat industry is estimated to shoot up to $89 billion across the globe by 2025.  PETA along with hordes of other animal agriculture welfare organizations have taken their stand against animal products, so the war for vegan alternatives vs meat industry leather is real and continues to wage on. It’s your turn to avoid these concerns completely by opting for cruelty-free products, this includes choosing vegan leather belts and other vegan leather fashion brands products as well as giving value to animal welfare and human health by keeping environmental concerns in mind and it’s a great example.



Perhaps you’re like us here at Cruelty Free Belts and are a little crazy about Vegan Leather Belts.  If this is you, we recommend reading some of our related blog posts: How to Make your own Vegan Leather Belt“, “Cactus Leather – More Prick but Less Harm to Animals“, “Vegan Belts – the Ethical Real Leather Free Alternative“, “Vegan Belts make an Ethical Difference“, “The 10 Best Reasons Why a Genuine Leather Belt is Worse than a Vegan Leather Belt“, “Non Leather Belt – the Cruelty Free Difference it Makes“, and “Are Vegan Leather Belts Better than Real Leather Belts?”

How does vegan leather compare to genuine leather?

When we consider leather as a whole, we are aware that it is made from the skin of animals. Plant-based leather, however, was now being manufactured for belts, jackets, wallets, and more. Moreover, a variety of materials can be used to make vegan leather, including fake leather, synthetic fibers, leatherette, leaf leather, pleather, imitation leather, and vegetable-tanned leather. Also, it is generally assumed that plant-based leather products are manufactured without the use of animal hides for animal welfare and therefore conform to animal cruelty laws.

Do you think vegan leather is better than real leather?

Yes. This is especially in terms of environmental impact, some environmentalists believe that using genuine leather is still preferable to using vegan leather. Therefore, vegan leather remains a better choice than genuine leather due to its single most important advantage, and obviously, it's vegan. PVC is crucial to the manufacturing process because only certain kinds of PVC can be used. You can also find a very durable and high-quality variant of PVC leather if you are a careful shopper. Although there is no other natural substance as attractive as leather, it remains a much more popular choice. It is for this reason that vegan leather tries to mimic real leather to the greatest extent possible.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top