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Article: Vegan leather, organic leather, animal leather, imitation leather: Understanding all these names

cuir vegan qu'est-ce que c'est

Vegan leather, organic leather, animal leather, imitation leather: Understanding all these names

The name of leather is regulated by the French consumer code and designates a material that is derived from animal skin; vegan leather as such does not exist. Indeed, "vegan" means a mode of consumption excluding all products from animals or their exploitation. Thus, vegan leather is an oxymoron and has no meaning as such, but it allows to designate all materials similar to real leather without having a link with any animal.

What are the "vegan" materials that make up what is called vegan leather?

  • Synthetic materials

Synthetic materials are generally derived from plastic, the famous "imitation leather" based on PVC or PU. The imitation leather is a material that is obtained by adding a mixture based on plasticizer from petroleum and vinyl powder, on the fabric. This treatment is done in several layers so that this material has the appearance of "real" leather. However, this type of production requires the use of several plastic derivatives that can release toxins that are dangerous for the environment and for people in contact with this material. The majority of vegan leathers remain petroleum by-products, thus having a high carbon footprint. 

  • Organic materials

In recent years, in parallel with the vegan trend, we are witnessing the emergence of new plant-based materials imitating leather. Thus it is possible to find fake leather made with pineapple leaves, mushrooms, apples, tea, or even sap.

    We are therefore witnessing a real willingness on the part of consumers and companies to act in a positive way on the planet by changing our mode of consumption. However, we feel it is important to mention that at present, even in vegan vegetable-based leathers, more than half of the composition of these materials is a petrochemical-based resin, which therefore has a significant impact on the environment. This resin increases the strength of these materials. But we remain confident, in a few years techniques will probably have evolved and will allow to remove these plastic materials from these vegan leathers. 

    How to recognize a vegan leather or an animal leather? 

    Most "vegan leathers" are certified by labels to assure consumers that the products have no contact with animal exploitation. The best known, and one of the oldest vegan labels is the Vegan Society. Visually, vegan leathers can be deceiving! Indeed, vegan leathers undergo a printing process before being marketed making their appearance really similar to leather. This is especially true for pineapple or grape leather. However, it should be noted that leather from animal skins can develop a beautiful patina over time (especially if it is organic tanned leather) unlike vegan leather. 

    To check if the material in question is leather or vegan leather, you just have to feel it. This test (although unconventional) will quickly tell you what type of leather it is. A genuine leather piece will have that leather smell we all know. On the other hand, a vegan leather will be either odorless or will have a plastic or chemical smell, this is particularly the case for synthetic leatherette. Whatever the nature of the leather you use, we advise you to clean your leather watch strap to take the best care of your watch. At Charlie Paris, we offer different types of leather such as grained leather or ostrich leather. 

    And is vegan leather the same thing as organic leather? 

    You will have understood that vegan leather is not to be confused with organic leather or plant-based tanned leather. Indeed, when we talk about this type of leather, we are talking about "real" leather which is made from animal skin and is tanned with organic tannins and not with more polluting mineral tannins. There are therefore differences between chrome tanning and organic tanning. We use both types of processes for our interchangeable watch straps.  At Charlie Paris, we do not currently have any vegan leather straps. If animal welfare is important to you, we develop animal friendly watch straps that allow you to change the strap of your men's watch or women's watch very quickly. 

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