This post is also available in: 한국어 (Korean)
What is Vegan Leather?
One of the hot topics of the millennials,
is Green Consumerism.
Accordingly, interest in vegan leather, which is called a sustainable eco-friendly material, has increased in the fashion industry these days. It is a fashion that considers the environment without exploiting animals.
Even by just hearing ‘vegan leather’, it seems to be made only of good materials. So what exactly is vegan leather? Is it really a sustainable, eco-friendly material?
What is Vegan Leather?
Actually Vegan Leather and Fake Leather mean the same. When it comes to ‘Vegan’, it means a strict vegetarian who does not eat ingredients from animals, such as eggs and milk. When ‘vegan’ is used as a fashion term, no ingredients from animals were used and no animals were used for testing the product. It is a fake ‘leather’ material that does not use animal skin. There are many different materials used to make vegan leather. There are synthetics such as plastics and natural materials such as cork.
The most frequently used materials for Synthetic Leather are plastic-based materials such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane (PU). Another term for ‘fake’ leather is ‘pleather’, which comes from the term ‘Plastic Leather’,which uses plastic as the main material, and also implies artificial leather.
However, these two synthetic materials, which are commonly used to make artificial leather, raise questions about the environmental risks of vegan leather. Of course, there is a movement to make artificial leather with eco-friendly materials such as cork, kelp, mushrooms and even pineapple leaves. However, the reality is that there are not many vegan leathers made of natural materials yet.
Anyway, depending on how the artificial leather was made, it becomes more durable, resistant to contamination, soft, and luxurious. When genuine leather products are used, the durability is weak, and the products are often damaged by contamination or scratches. However, vegan leather solves those problems.
How is Vegan Leather Made?
Synthetic leather is made with chemical products and processes that are completely different from genuine natural leather. The most common way to make artificial leather is to combine plastic coating with fabric lining. The types of plastics used in these coatings vary widely and determine whether they are environmentally friendly or not.
Although polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is used much less these days, it is still easy to find in the composition of vegan leather. PVC emits dioxins, a potentially hazardous substance in enclosed spaces, which is very dangerous, especially if burned.
Polyurethane (PU) is a more improved modern plastic than polyvinyl chloride. However, polyurethane is not completely environmentally friendly because of its defects such as toxins released during manufacturing and petroleum-based polymers using fossil fuels. Currently, the industry is continuously developing technology to reduce defects in polyurethane.
Artificial leather also uses plasticizers such as phthalates (chemicals used as binders for flooring, adhesives, soaps, and shampoos) for elasticity. However, depending on the type of phthalate, toxicity is very strong. This is described as ‘The Single Most Environmentally Harmful Plastic Type’ by the global environmental organization Greenpeace.
How Does Vegan Leather Smell?
Since vegan leather or artificial leather is made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane (PU), it often has a strange odor that can be smelled from chemicals. It is often described as a ‘strange fish’ smell, and experts say that it is difficult to remove the smell.
In particular, polyvinyl chloride emits dangerous toxins that give off a bad smell. Therefore, vegan leather is unlikely to solve the odor problem for the time being due to the special nature of using plastic materials. If your new product has a smell, you can remove it with leather aromas, or remove it naturally in a well-ventilated area.
So far, we have looked at what vegan leather is,
what kind of material it is made of, and what kind of properties it has. So next time, let’s think about how we should consume it.