For people who love the look and functionality of leather but are committed to a lifestyle prohibiting the use of animal products, vegan leather is an appropriate choice.
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Clothing, shoes and fashion accessories made of artificial leather are produced and marketed as animal-friendly options. Upholstery, travel bags, laptop cases and other products can also be made using leather alternatives. Vegan leather is produced from synthetic materials without using any animal products and is also referred to as faux or artificial leather. There is no difference between most artificial leathers and vegan leathers except for terminology.
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Cruelty-free vegan clothing requires artificial leather that is pliable and breathable. Early artificial leathers designed primarily for upholstery usually did not have these qualities. Additionally, some of the early formulations used animal leather powder with binders and were therefore not vegan. The most common forms of vegan leather are produced using synthetic materials sourced from petroleum. A variety of plastics and synthetic microfibers are used in the production of the various forms of vegan leather.
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One common type of artificial leather is made from a base of fabric coated with polyvinyl chloride (PVC). People concerned about the environment as well as animal welfare tend to avoid this form of synthetic leather, as it is not as environmentally friendly as other artificial leathers. Polyurethane leather uses a different manufacturing process and is viewed as less harmful to the environment. This type of vegan leather is softer and more pliable than PVC-based leather, making it more comfortable to wear. Still other vegan leathers are made using microfiber, a thin diameter polyester or nylon fiber.
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Not all vegan leather is made from synthetic materials. Some vegan leather is made from sustainably harvested cork. This may be combined with synthetic materials to make it more pliable and durable. Ocean leather is another form of vegan leather produced from plant sources.