Suede is considered a timeless fabric that features itself in year-round fashion. A growing number of individuals are now opting for a more conscious vegan lifestyle. And so, major fashion stores are introducing vegan suede alternatives.
Thanks to this, one can enjoy the texture and look of suede without putting their conscience aside. Vegan and sustainable suede alternatives prevent the needless suffering of sentient animals.
Microsuede is a type of synthetic suede that is often used in furnishings, garments, and home textile items. Invoking and tapping into a luxury aesthetic, microsuede is most often dyed black, brown, or gray but can come in other colors as well.
Read also: Vegan Suede Alternatives
Is Microsuede Vegan?
Yes, Microsuede is vegan. Manufactured by DuPont in 1970, it was originally created to mimic tanned animal skin suede.
The terms faux suede, microsuede, and Ultrasuede all refer to the same fabric, one that is fully synthetic. The fabric is cheaper than real suede and has a more consistent surface finish and a flat appearance that reduces wrinkling.
Essentially, microsuede is a type of man-made microfiber. It provides the same feel as genuine suede leather with much fewer downsides.
Nowadays, microsuede is used by a variety of vegan and nonvegan shoe companies. Among these vegan brands are Mesa Shoes, Minuit Sur Terre, and Nae Vegan Shoes.
What Is Microsuede Made Of?
Microsuede is typically made out of polyester or polyurethane, a petroleum-based thermoplastic polymer.
Microfiber in itself is a very soft fiber material. It can be made using polyester, nylon, or other materials. The fiber is flexible and can be turned into non-woven, woven, and knitted textiles.
While the durability of microsuede is not on par with animal-derived suede leather, it is quite durable. This is also dependent on the type of faux suede being used and the manufacturer that produces it.
Microsuede is much cheaper to produce than animal suede while still offering a premium look and feel. Unlike animal leather – which comes from the top side of animal hide – genuine suede is not water-resistant or stain-proof.
This is where microsuede displays its charm. Firstly, it is much easier to clean and care for. Secondly, traditional suede doesn’t perform well in the elements of nature and quickly ends up in a landfill. But, microsuede is water-repelling and dirt-resistant.
Lastly, microsuede is an allergen deterrent and comfortable.
Is Microsuede Ethical?
Animals are NOT commodified, bred, exploited, and killed to produce microsuede. It is considered ethical as animals are not directly harmed.
However, another ethical aspect of the textile industry lies with labor laws and working conditions. They are generally poor, particularly in third-world countries. And that’s where a lot of textile manufacturing and production takes place.
Microfibers are frequently bathed in a combination of toxic chemicals. They are introduced during the manufacturing process. These compounds are used to colorize fibers, make them resistant to mold, and extend their life.
They are also linked to a variety of health hazards. These include delayed brain development, cognitive impairments, and higher cancer incidence. This may be a concern for the health of workers.
Inhaling microfibers may also cause respiratory issues, inflammation, asthma, bronchitis, and autoimmune diseases. Unfortunately, millions of textile workers are affected by the process of dealing with nylon and polyester.
Is Microsuede Environmentally Friendly?
The answer isn’t as cut and dry as you might think. Factors like sourcing and manufacturing play into sustainability. This can make it difficult to determine if the fabric is truly sustainable or not.
Currently, there isn’t enough evidence to confirm if microsuede is more sustainable than animal suede.
Microsuede’s manufacturing process has been called “environmentally friendly” by some manufacturers. This is because the fabric uses water-based dyes. It can also be recycled at the end of its life cycle if it’s made out of post-consumer fibers (for instance, scraps from garments).
But, polyester and nylon materials are derived from petrochemicals. They are not renewable or biodegradable. So, while microsuede is vegan, it may not be the most eco-friendly alternative for vegan suede because it is a cause of microfiber pollution.
According to a report by the IUCN, plastic particles get washed off from synthetic clothes & textiles. They contribute to 35% of primary microplastics polluting our oceans.
Microsuede is vegan in nature and more ethical compared to animal-derived leather and suede. But, it poses serious environmental challenges and health concerns.
Polyurethane continues to dominate the synthetic leather business. But, there is an increasing desire for more ecologically acceptable bio-based alternatives. Examples of these include mushroom suede and coconut leather.
Read also: Is Suede Vegan? What Is Suede Made Of?
Featured image: courtesy of Mesa Shoes