What is Faux Leather : Different types & 15 important distinguishing properties

faux leather

On the most basic level, Faux leather is man-made leather. It is made as a substitute for real leather and has the look and feel you want in traditional leather (almost) without the negative association of animal cruelty.  Anything that is made typically with leather can be made with faux leather – accessories, garments, upholstery. It is made in most of the colors and textures that real leather is available in and is easier to care and maintain.

Faux leather is a type of material made by covering a backing (fabric or leather) with plastic-type synthetic material (soft plastic layer) so that it looks like real leather, including the natural grains inherent on the surface of leather, different shades, etc. The fabric backing may be a stretchy interlock knit fabric or a cotton/polyester blend fabric.

Other than the issue of harming animals, there are a lot of chemical processes involved in converting animal hide into leather suitable for production that is extremely harmful to the environment. There are the issues of excesses in land use and water use and large scale pollution of water sources involved in leather manufacturing. There are many advantages to using the imitation leather to make your jackets, shoes, pants and bags in place of real leather. Factory breeding of animals in inhuman conditions for leather industry is cruelty beyond comparison. And that reason is more than enough.

Use of faux leather is ethical in its core but on the other hand it is after all plastic. All the world knows that plastic is a nonbiodegradable material and as such causes a lot of harm to the environment. Manufacture and usage and even disposal of plastic is a major environmental crisis that is happening right now. So the issue is still open to discussion on the sustainability of fake leather over real leather.

How is faux leather made

A fabric backing is covered with a bonded plastic coating.  The types of coating used varies and gives rise to different kinds of fake leathers.  The leather-like look and feel also varies among different kinds of faux leathers.

Different types of Faux leather

There are many types of faux leather.

Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) leather – PVC is very popularly used non-porous leather and it is the most dangerous of all faux leathers as it is made of toxins and releases toxins to the air as you use it, or worse burn it. PU leather is a better alternative to this.

Polyurethane leather (PU leather)This is a more sustainable alternative to PVC faux leather. It is more breathable than PVC leather too.

Polyamide microfiber, Poromeric Imitation Leather (This is a synthetic leather first made by Dupont in 1963. Corfarm was the first branded Poromeric Imitation leather) 

How to know leather and fake leather apart

Fake leather will have a strong plastic/chemical smell. The grain on the surface will be perfect – the lines will be symmetrical, and will be even all over etc. Leather is never perfect unless it is processed and changed. Faux Leather can be made into thin sheets whereas leather will never be as thin. The Back of leather and fake leather are different. Leather will have a suede like back . Fake leather comes with a fabric or plastic backing also, other than a leather backing.

There are many reasons why many people prefer man made leather to the real leather. Then there are many reasons for not liking it so much as well. Here are these distinguishing features of faux leather that make it different from or similar to conventional leather it is so much trying to imitate.

1 Looks almost like leather

Faux leather is available in as many or more varieties of textures and colours as leather. Though it tries to be a good replica it has some differences expecially in the lack of irregularities inherent in natural leather. 

2 Great as a manufacturing material

Ease of cutting and sewing this material is a great advantage. Anything that is made of leather can be made of faux leather. Infact it is easier to sew. Usually, it can be thinner than leather and is light weight too and is to a degree flexible.

3 Made of plastic

Because of this, it is termed as toxic. 

4 Durable but not very durable

Vegan leather is really much less durable than good quality real leather. It is alot thinner than real and can tear easily. But the protective coating it has protects it from scuffs and stains. So in a way it is durable. Atleast it does not crack or fade easily.

5 Feel and touch similar to leather

6 Easy to maintain and clean

7 No possibility of cruelty against animals

It is made in a factory with only plastic .

8  Resistance to stains

Compared to leather there are less chances of fake leather developing stains on the surface. Because nothing permeates its plastic coating there is less chance of stain.

9 Resistance to water

As fake leather has a plastic coating on the surface, it will not take in water at all.

The pores on the surface of the fake leather are artificial . The plastic coating on the surface of the fabric doesnot allow any water to get inside. This feature also allows it to be easily brittle due to dryness.

But if the fake leather is made of a mix of other fibers like cotton or synthetic fibers then you will need to add extra water proofing protection.

10 Affordable

Faux leather is cheaper to make compared to leather. It can be sewn just like fabric. No high skill needed like a leather artisan would need. The lower cost of this material is one major factor in this material being used to make a lot of things today.

11 Plastic smell

Fake leather is made of plastic and has a chemical smell. 

12 Does not age well

Real leather develops a beautiful patina which is impossible for in faux leather.

13 Not breathable

A disadvantage of faux leather is that it is not porous and does not allow air to pass through it.

When making clothes this is a major disadvantage, as when you wear faux leather clothing you sweat a lot and the sweat doesnot go out – not the greatest summer wear fabric.

14 Does not Stretch / stiff

Leather has a natural flexibility and stretch that is not there in fake leather.Faux leather is not as pliable and stretchy as real leather.

15 Extremely sensitive to heat

Because it is made of plastic heat will destroy it.

A very good quality faux leather can look and feel much better and even last longer than a very low-quality genuine leather. Do you agree ? 

Related post : How to sew with faux leather Tips for Faux leather care 


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