Say no to Vegan Leather
After hearing that the Falabella bag by Stella McCartney was constructed from a leather substitute, and that Natalie Portman was starting her own vegan leather shoe line, I started to wonder: what the heck is ‘vegan leather’ anyway? And is it really more eco-friendly than authentic leather?
This leather substitute is used to make clothing, shoes, accessories, upholstery and more. It’s often indistinguishable from the real thing, and is much cheaper to manufacture than leather –even though designers, like McCartney, inflate the price. While a few vegan leathers are cork- or kelp-based, the vast majority of faux leather has been around for ages, and is made of scary materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane and textile-polymer composite microfibres.
'Vegan leather’ reeks, literally and figuratively, of petroleum.
Vegan Leather and the Environment
It gets worse. Both leather and vegan leather production emit chemicals harmful to the environment and factory workers alike. Leather production’s preparatory stage, in which the raw animal hide is prepared for tanning, usually incorporates substances (like hydrogen sulfide and ammonia) which put factory workers at risk for skin, respiratory, ocular or nerve damage, or in cases of extreme overexposure, death.
The tanning stage prevents hides from rotting (as normal skin would normally do), often through the use of chromium, which then leaks into nearby soil and water at high enough levels to be carcinogenic and mutagenic. For every ton of hide produced, twenty to eighty cubic metres of chemically toxic, pathogen-contaminated wastewater is unleashed on the environment. And Amazon rainforests are being depleted at a rate of one hectare every eighteen seconds by cattle ranchers looking to cash in on a bustling market for luxury leather items.
Despite these eco-horrors, many eco-warriors find vegan leather production even worse. For example, the manufacture and incineration of PVC-based synthetics produce one of the most toxic chemicals known to man: dioxins. Found in almost every single modern human’s body, dioxins promote developmental disturbances and increase cancer risks tenfold.
Since plastic-based synthetics don’t fully biodegrade, they produce micro-particles that are ingested by animals and thus enter the food chain at all levels: even Arctic polar bears have been found to have dioxins in their bloodstream. When it does break down, vegan leather releases phthalates—initially added as a softening agent—which subsequently enter the food chain and the atmosphere, causing breathing problems, breast cancers, hormonal disruptions and birth defects.
Microfiber, Mega Problem
Many major vegan leather brands claim their products are made of ‘eco friendly’ PU (Polyurethane) microfibers, used because their ‘feel’ is similar to that of leather, and it can be imprinted with grains that mimic suede and natural skins. But make no mistake–there is no such thing as ‘eco friendly’ PU.
In the production of microfiber-based synthetics, textiles and polymers are often layered together and compressed several times through metal rollers, then submersed in a coagulation solution to solidify. This chemical process requires excessive levels of toxic substances like dimethylformamide, which has also been linked to cancer and birth defects, and acetic acid, high doses of which can damage skin and eyes.
Please be conscious and be responsible. We are just “borrowing” the planet for a while, lets think of the future generations. We at JL Rocha solemly pledge that we will never use "vegan leather” in any of pur products.