What is vegan leather made from?

There are a wide variety of vegan leathers on the market today—what they all have in common is that they are made without the use of animals. The products that VOKE sells are made from three primary categories of vegan leather: 


Plastic- and resin based*
e.g., polyurethane (PU), ultra-microfiber 


 Silicone-based
e.g., "Freedom Leather' 


Plant-based
e.g., Piñatex (pineapple leather), apple leather 


*NOTE: VOKE does not sell products newly manufactured with Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) due to its negative impact on the environment. However, we do carry a few items that are created from deadstock materials containing PVC. Because these items use recycled textiles, we have deemed this acceptable as it saves the material from entering landfill. You will see a note on all relevant items.

 Which is more sustainable, vegan  leather or animal leather?

Vegan leather—by a lot. Animal-based leather is the most unsustainable material of all commonly used fashion materials (2017 Pulse of the Fashion Industry Report). As a category, vegan leather has just one-third of the environmental footprint as animal leather.


That said, the environmental impact of vegan leather does range. On the one hand, you have PVC which is produced using highly toxic ingredients which readily migrate into the environment during its production, use, and disposal (hence why we do not sell items containing it UNLESS the item is produced using recycled materials containing PVC — which therefore takes it out of landfill). 


 On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have plant-based leathers. As recycled fruit and vegetable byproducts, plant-based leathers don't just have a small footprint, they actually utilize waste products—and create an additional income stream for farming communities. Some, like apple leather, are biodegradable—those that aren't, like Piñatex, are quickly moving in that direction. 


 One question we're frequently asked is whether polyurethane (PU) is environmentally friendly. The truth is that any plastic-based leather has environmental drawbacks. That said, its impact still pales in comparison to that of animal-based leather.

A deep dive into our materials

Pinatex

Piñatex is a natural leather alternative made from cellulose fibers extracted from pineapple leaves. As an agricultural waste product, the harvesting of these fibers helps support a scalable commercial industry for developing farming communities. The fabric was created by Dr. Carmen Hijosa and first displayed at the PhD graduate exhibition at the Royal College of Art, London. Dr. Carmen's company, Ananas Anam Ltd., manufactures and supplies the material to brands looking to use the material in products including footwear and fashion accessories, clothing, interior furnishing and automotive upholstery.

Apple Leather

Apple leather—one of the latest innovations in vegan fashion—is created from the leftovers of harvested apples (seeds, cores, and peels). The end result is a beautifully smooth, leather-like material that is non-toxic and 100% biodegradable. Apple leather is exceptionally durable, naturally UV-resistant, highly breathable, and hypoallergenic.

Freedom Leather

Freedom leather (created by Alexandra K) is made from silicone, a unique, non-plastic, non-petroleum based material. This sustainable material requires less water, raw materials, and electricity to produce compared to PU and PVC (other common vegan leathers). And while it feels similar to leather, it's actually the same material used to produce baby bottle nipples, a testament to its safety and non-toxicity. 


Sustainability 

- 100% vegan

- Compliant with RoHS, REACH, California Prop 65, & CAL01350

- Qualifies for LEED v4, Green Globes, BREEAM, BREEAM International, Living Building Challenge, CHPS, UP EPA Federal Purchasing

- Free from antimicrobials, formaldehyde, PFCs, PVC, flame retardants, plasticizers, phthalates, heavy metals, chlorine, and BPA

- Ultra-low VOC emissions

- Recyclable

- Produced in a ISO 9001 compliant facility 


Performance

- Highly durable

- Stain resistant

- Heat resistant

- Humidity aging resistant

- Salt water resistant

- UV resistant

- Hypo-allergenic

Ultra Microfiber

Ultra-microfiber is a high-tech, luxurious, non-toxic and naturally water-repellant vegan leather. It's 50% lighter than genuine leather and 5 times more durable. In fact, it is frequently used in airplanes and sports gear because of its impressive durability. Microfiber is also 30% less impactful on the environment vs. animal leathers in water usage, eutrophication and contribution to global warming. 

Polyurethane

Polyurethane (PU) is a plastic-based composite material comprised of one or more layers of PU and a textile backing (e.g., cotton). Its soft, supple texture—and its 'wrinkling effect'—give the material a genuine leather look and feel.Unlike polyvinyl chloride (traditional "pleather"), PU is highly breathable—and, most importantly—far less toxic to produce than PVC. Innovations in textile technology are making PU significantly more eco-friendly than it used to be, too. Vegetable-based PU, for instance, is made with a by-product of plant oils, reducing the chemical hazards and improving the textile's biodegradability. And, recycled PU is now commonly used as a lining for vegan leather products.