What Exactly is Vegan Leather Made Of?

    If you’re a vegan, or just opposed to animal cruelty when possible, you’ve probably been avoiding leather. Luckily, there are quite a few vegan alternatives out there to choose from, some of them pretty similar in texture.

    But how exactly do they achieve that texture and color without cowhide?

    If you’ve ever wondered what vegan leather is made out of, you’re not alone. 

    There are a few different ingredients that manufacturers use to make vegan leather. Most of them fall under two broad categories: plastics and plants.


    When you think of vegan leather, the term “pleather” may bounce around in your mind. This term technically stands for “plastic leather.”

    It’s one of the most common vegan leather substitutes out there. It’s largely inexpensive and cheap to make.

    There are two main materials that plastic leather can be made out of.

    PVC Leather

    Less common than PU, polyvinyl chloride (PVC for short) leather is one type of plastic leather.

    It’s a chemically altered vinyl blended with other chemicals to create a fabric that resembles leather without cowhide.

    However, there are some health and environmental concerns when it comes to PVC. It releases harmful toxins into the atmosphere, and these toxins get worse when it’s burned. This makes it bad for the environment as well, as it releases thee toxins into landfills when it’s thrown away.

    PU Leather

    PU, short for polyurethane, leather is another plastic vegan leather. It’s made from a fabric bonded to a thermoplastic polymer.

    This coating gives it a leathery texture and appearance. It is less toxic than PVC, but it is still made from chemicals and plastics that last forever in landfills. 

    If you want to make a more environmentally-conscious decision, it’s best to go with a more natural fiber.


    Another common ingredient that’s a bit harder to find is vegan leather made from plants.

    There are surprisingly a few different organic materials used in this process of making vegan leather.


    You read that right. There’s a type of vegan leather made from mushrooms. Well, sort of.

    Mushroom leather is made from mycelium, the organic matter that acts as the “roots” of mushrooms. It grows like a web beneath the ground, composting organic material and connecting all sorts of living things.

    This web provides an interesting texture that mimics the look and feel of traditional cow leather.

    To grow it onsite, it also takes very little space and resources. In fact, it’s cultivated from a bed of sawdust with other organic material and a little water. 

    These fibers are then woven together, tanned, and dyed to whatever shade of leather you want. It’s as malleable and durable, just like leather.

    It’s also completely natural and biodegradable. This makes it safe both ecologically and health-wise.

    Plus, it’s just downright cool to have leather that’s made out of mushrooms. Need we say more?


    One of the most unique materials that vegan leather can be made of is the waste products produced by apples.

    This vegan leather is made by using leftovers from apple production like cores and skins to create a vegan leather that looks just like the real thing.

    It does have more of a papery texture, which makes it great for sewing and creating your own unique garment.

    You Have Options

    The most important thing to note is that you have options when it comes to vegan leather.

    You could take the traditional plastic leather route for an inexpensive, easy-to-find alternative. Or, you could take a more natural route by using a plant-based leather that’s biodegradable and good for the environment.

    No matter which you choose, it’s easy to avoid cow leather and find a vegan alternative.


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