The Ultimate Guide: Vegan Leather vs. Vegetable-Tanned Leather

Leather accessories compliment every outfit they’re paired with — making them one of the only fashion trends that will never go out of style. Before deciding which type of leather you’d like to purchase, it’s important to understand the differences so you can make an informed decision. Here’s everything you need to know about vegan leather and vegetable-tanned leather before purchasing that leather belt you’ve always wanted:


How Is the Leather Sourced?

Vegetable Tanned LeatherVegetable-tanned leather is a byproduct of the meat industry. This means that animals were not specifically killed for their leather, but instead, were killed by the meat industry. The leather derived from the animals is an attempt to preserve as much of the animal as possible so little goes to waste. Vegetable-tanning has been used for centuries as a natural method for tanning the authentic leather. The term “vegetable” derives from the natural ingredients that are used to tan the leather; the most common ingredient for this process is the bark of oak or spruce trees.


Vegan leather used to be called pleather, but is now more commonly referred to as vegan leather to incentivize potential buyers who care about the environment. While this leather is vegan because no animal byproducts are used to produce this material, it would be a stretch to say that this alternative is good for the environment. Vegan leather is made with plastic and wax before spraying the product with chemicals in an attempt to make this faux leather last longer.


Which Is More Sustainable?

Vegetable-tanned leather is regulated to ensure that the quality of the product meets the industry standards. This type of leather is naturally long-lasting — this ensures that there is no unnecessary waste that’s contributed to the environment.


While the purpose of vegan leather is meant to be sustainable, the heavy amounts of plastic used and the harmful chemicals sprayed on each piece defeat the purpose of saving the environment. Animal byproducts are replaced with plastic; this faux leather derived from plastic contributes to the fashion industry’s giant waste problem.


Is There a Difference in Quality?

Vegetable-tanned leather breathes very easily — this means that the leather actually softens the more it is used. It’s also proven to last longer than its faux friend.


Vegan leather is known to have a distinctive aroma that smells of chemicals — some say that this aroma is similar to the smell of fish. The chemicals used to create the faux leather are locked into the piece because the material is not breathable; this means that the smell is quite hard to get rid of. Vegan leather also falls victim to cracking when overworn or placed in the sun for too long.


All things considered, there’s quite a big difference between vegan leather and vegetable-tanned leather. Vegetable-tanned leather is one of the oldest methods of tanning; this method is tried and true. While the concept of vegan leather seems positive on the surface, it proves to fall short in comparison to vegetable-tanned leather in several different ways.