What Is The Difference Between Faux Leather And Vegan Leather

By Divya Kashyap. Updated: August 2022.
We may receive a commission for purchases made through the links in this post. Learn more.

Now more than ever, it is easy to find vegan leather alternatives to animal leather. Lifestyle changes and consumer behavior have influenced industries to seek and produce replacements.

Manufacturers globally are becoming innovative with materials like fruits, plants, and even rocks. You can find a plethora of vegan leather alternatives available, with more on the way.

This article will discuss the differences between faux leather and vegan leather. While the two sound similar, they don’t refer to exactly the same thing. It will also cover the ethical considerations of both of these alternatives.

With this, you will have a better understanding of their distinctions. Whether you follow a vegan lifestyle or not, this will help you make a more informed choice as a consumer.

What Is Traditional Leather?

Real leather comes from the hide of animals. It is combined with something that preserves its shape and character through a tanning process. Not only are animals killed to produce leather, it is neither good for the environment.

Additionally, it is also harmful to the workers who make leather through a process called chrome tanning. The excessive use of chemicals used in production results in severe health problems. Some of them include skin cancer, respiratory diseases, and neurological disorders.

Fortunately, we are living in a time where it’s possible to choose leather alternatives that are cruelty-free.

What Is Faux Leather?

What Is Faux Leather

Faux leather was first created in an American rubber mill in the 1920s. This synthetic leather, or “pleather,” was invented in Naugatuck, Connecticut.

It was appropriately named “Naugahyde.” Initially, only handbags were made using this vinyl-coated fabric.

A fabric basis, such as polyester, is used to make faux leather.

Using wax, dye, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or polyurethane, the cloth is given an imitation leather gloss and feel.

All faux leathers are man-made and come with a variety of benefits such as being durable and eco-friendly. However, some materials are more ethical than others because they may not contain toxic chemicals as some others do.

Pleather was created as a cheaper alternative to leather although it does not look like the real thing. It can be man-made or made from plastic bottles, old rubber tires, or other materials. Leather, in this case, has been replaced by plastic since it’s cheaper to make.

What Is Vegan Leather

Vegan leather is a more recent addition to the fashion lexicon. Vegan leather is focused on ethical concerns more than cost-cutting. It adds an emphasis to how fashion items are sourced and produced.

Vegan-friendly materials can be used to create vegan-leather items. These materials include natural linens such as cotton, linen, hemp, and jute as well as other plant-based fibers.

Fruit waste, wood, stone, and recycled rubber are some other materials that are being used to create vegan leather.

What Is The Difference Between Faux Leather And Vegan Leather

The main difference between faux leather and vegan leather is the longevity and sustainability of the fabric. It is also in the approach behind the material.

Faux leather is considered a “cheaper” leather and is used heavily in fast fashion. For many years, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) was the primary material used to create faux leather. This declined due to toxicity concerns posed by the material. Today, faux leather is made using polyurethane.

On the other hand, vegan leather is about rejecting cruelty, pollutants, and destructive processes. It cares about providing consumers with products that are not only ethical but safer for the planet.

How To Choose Between Faux Leather And Vegan Leather

How To Choose Between Faux Leather And Vegan Leather

If you’re trying to choose between faux leather and vegan leather, here are some key highlights worth keeping in mind.

Faux leather is cheaper than both animal leather and vegan leather. It can be made in any desired color and it is easy to clean up with soap and water. It is also much more readily available in the market.

Faux leather is cruelty-free and may make a good replacement for traditional leather. But because it is made from plastic, it is not sustainable. Another drawback of faux leather is that it deteriorates relatively fast and in an unattractive way.

Additionally, faux leather can sometimes smell like plastic due to the chemicals used in its production. If the leather has a plasticky, chemical stench, you can be sure it’s synthetic.

As for vegan leather, it is arguably more eco-friendly than both faux leather and traditional leather. The latter two are known to pollute groundwater and emit volatile compounds and heavy metals into the air.

Vegan leather is often priced much higher than faux leather but it is much more durable and better quality. Unlike faux leather, the production of vegan leather is also slower and there is less of it on the market.

Currently, vegan leather is being produced using a variety of plant-based materials. They include pineapples, cork, mushrooms, cactus, wood, and coconuts.

Vegan Leather In Fashion

More eco-friendly vegan leather alternatives are in the process of being created, invested in, and employed by fashion-forward brands.

Among them are designers like Stella McCartney and Rae Nicoletti. Not only are they focused on creating ethical fashion pieces but do so with an emphasis on durability and style.

Hozen, Desserto, Arsayo, Malai, and MycoWorks are among some growing brands. They produce sustainable vegan leather or offer products made from them.

What Is The Future Of Leather

Today, faux leather heavily dominates the market. But the future of vegan leather is brighter than ever. We’re slowly seeing an increased number of vegan leather styles made from sustainable materials.

This is due to the growing consumer concerns around how leather will adapt to a fashion climate that combats global warming.

Synthetic imitation leathers are expected to remain active in the battle against animal cruelty. But vegan leather is increasingly connected with sustainability and the more obvious choice.


While faux leather and vegan leather may seem similar at first glance, they’re not quite the same. They symbolize different approaches to fashion. Even though faux leather can be considered ethical, it is not sustainable.

Yes, all non-animal leathers safeguard animal rights. But only eco-friendly vegan leather can be trusted as a long-term, ethical alternative to traditional leather.

Divya is a content crafter at Vegan Avenue. She is a long-term happy vegan who is also enthusiastic about slow, mindful living in the company of cats.