2013 is the Year of Pleather


NY Magazine Designer Faux Leather

NY Magazine Photo of Top Designers Doing Faux Leather


•Faux Leather•

•PVC Leather•

•Polyurethane (PU) Leather•

•Vegan Leather•

Forever 21 Faux Leather Jacket

Forever 21 Faux Leather Jacket

Whatever you’d like to call it, “leather alternatives” seem to making their way into fashion on every price level.  From the lower ended fashion icons of Forever 21 and H&M to the bohemian Free People to top designers, Tom Ford and Stella McCartney, “pleather” is being used more than ever and with fabulously, stylish results. Because of it’s lower cost, ease to work with, and the control gained over the result, using faux leather to create great pants, skirts and tops has become very fashionably acceptable. According to New York Magazine, this could be the Year of Pleather. Obviously, making and using pleather eliminates the animal cruelty issue that real leather poses! Even though this may not be the central reason for most designers to implement it, it is a wonderful bonus for people who have chosen not to wear products derived from animals!


H&M Faux Leather Skirt

H&M Faux Leather Skirt

The word “pleather”–a mashup of the words, plastic and leather–was coined to describe a synthetic leather that was made from plastic and that is, pretty much, what pleather is.  PVC leather and Polyurethane leather may sound similar but, in fact, they are quite different. Many of you would think “Naugahyde” when thinking of artificial leather but designer pleather has come along way and couldn’t be further from it.

Pleather is basically made by layering plastic on fabric in varying thicknesses and degrees. PVC leather, polyvinyl chloride, made from similar plastic as the pipes in your bathroom, was one of the early developments as a leather alternative, but it is stiff, not porous or breathable and difficult to clean properly. It lends itself more to upholstery and handbags than to clothing.

Polyurethane (PU) leather, in contrast to PVC, is washable, can be dry-cleaned and allows the fabric to breathe, all of which makes it an attractive fabric to use in clothing design.  As NY Magazine describes it, “…advances in polymer chemistry have created new ways to apply the coating to the backing, resulting in textiles that feel and wear more like the real stuff, if not better, but won’t age, become discolored, or stretch out over time.”  These new materials can be manipulated in way that leather never could—texture, color, pattern and thickness.  Even a new artificial suede has been developed that won’t rub off on clothing and is waterproof.

Free People Vegan Leather Dress

Free People Vegan Leather Dress

Logical-minded people would think that labeling an item “vegan” or “animal cruelty-free” would be a selling point for many mainstream (non-vegan) designers, but that would also be taking a moral stand and many do not mix their fashion statements with ethics.  Wouldn’t proudly marking a product as cruelty-free  appeal to consumers? Hopefully, that will come to pass in the near future. Stella McCartney, on the opposite end of most in the high fashion industry, has openly taken a stand and makes the moral treatment of animals the centerpiece of her company’s mission to spectacular success.

Of course with every technological advancement, the question of safety and the environmental price to pay for a new material is everpresent. The latest superior, soft Pleather has it’s advantages over leather on many levels but are the plastics that are used to make Pleather harmful to us and the environment? Both PVC and Polyurethane are found all around us, probably in every room of our houses. Credit cards are made from PVC plastic!  Chemicals and levels of lead in these man-made materials are of great concern, but reports show that PVC seems to be much more toxic than Polyurethane, which is considered safe, in general.

According to Care2 Healthy Living, “some of PVC’s disturbing ingredients include: chlorine, petroleum, pthalates, and the carcinogen DEHP. The production process puts harmful chemicals like these, along with dioxin (linked with immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine system damage), and VOCs (which you may recognize as that “new car smell”). VOCs are associated with headaches, fatigue, nose and throat discomfort, among other ailments; some are suspected to cause cancer.”

Polyurethane leather, which is what we are seeing all over the stores now, seems to a safer material with which to drape our bodies. In fact, it’s been used for years to make the fibers that create spandex and elastic textiles. And then there’s the question of biodegradability of these plastics—will they live in land-fills forever or can they be recycled?

All of this controversial talk about leather, pleather, fashion and the environment reminds me of the fable of The Emperor’s New Clothes!  Maybe the next, more natural, most environmentally safe, fashionable trend will just be going naked!

When shopping online or in the stores, take a careful look at the label and you will notice that pleather items will be identified by PVC or Polyurethane. Alternative Outfitters specializes in vegan clothing and accessories, featuring many items in faux leather or pleather. Three companies that we love for their animal-friendly products and their stand on veganism are: Matt and Nat, Olsen Haus and Cri de Coeur. Check out our previous links with great products from these companies…

Matt & Nat:

Vegan American Princess Father’s Day Gift Ideas

Fabulous Vegan Handbags For Spring 2013

Vegan American Princess Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Olsen Haus:

Olsen Haus Pure Vegan Shoes…Eco-Friendly, Ethical And Hot!

Cri de Coeur:


If 2013 is the Year of Pleather, it will be fascinating to see if Pleather is just a trend or if it will become a mainstay textile, used season after season.  It would be wonderful if top designers would extol the virtues of Pleather as not only fashionable, lower cost and highly stylish but as animal-friendly!  Do you have an opinion about the virtues of Pleather vs. leather?  I would love to hear them!

Click here to read about the new fabulous eco-friendly faux leather jeans designed by fashion model Freja Beha Erichsen with Mother jeans which will be available at Barney’s New York in September.

xox Ellen

VAP Photo of me retouchedDSCF0406-150x150


  1. I love my Free People vegan leather jacket, so I know that one can still be fashionable without wearing leather. Hopefully, the demand for faux leather will rise pushing designers to create better and better faux leather materials. The new Freja+Mother faux leather jeans I recently blogged about are made of eco-friendly, biodegradable and machine washable material… so we know that faux leather could be done well. I hope the day will come when designers proudly take a cruelty-free stance as a marketing strategy, as Stella has done so successfully! Great post!

  2. Thank you for your post — very informative! I have always loved natural leather but recently had a mind-shift (on so many levels). Being a “bag lady”, a lover of handbags, totes, carryall of sorts, etc, etc, I am now a proud owner of 2 vegan bags (the start of my new collection). One of them, my first, is a Matt & Nat. At the time, I was looking for something bigger not so heavy like leather tend to be. The sales lady at the Satchel Shop showed me a Matt & Nat and said it is made in Canada. Never heard of them until after I bought it and did some research online. I was totally impressed and it opened my eyes to a whole new world. Love their philosophy and great designs.

    Never been a fan of PVC. Needed to find out more info, the difference between vegan leather and PVC. Your post clarified so much for me and then some. Great post — thank you!

    • It’s funny how a person can do such a turnaround of thinking just by being exposed to great alternatives. That was me too! Where is the Satchel Shop? it’s sounds like a place I’d like to check out. I think we’re going to see more and more high quality vegan leather bags and shoes, especially if there’s a demand. Just being a consumer of these products says to companies and trend watchers, “I like this and I want more!” Thanks for reading and your lovely comments.

  3. Hi Ellen,

    The Satchel Shop is located at Richmond Centre Mall in Richmond BC and I believe the sales lady is also the manager of the store. Great service and very knowledgeable — would definitely recommend a visit if you get a chance.

    Looking forward to seeing more quality vegan products in the market. Will definitely add my vote to the consuumer demand list. Thanks for reading and responding to my comments! Keep up the great job! Cheers!

  4. That’s a bit out of my neighborhood! If we asked for more vegan products, then maybe slowly but surely we’ll get them! We value your insight and comments!


  1. […] Click here to read  2013 Is The Year Of Pleather […]

  2. […] Although I didn’t purchase any shoes, I did buy this great white vegan leather jacket from the brand Raison D’Etre at Neiman’s Last Call. It also came in black, and I noticed that there were many other Raison D’Etre styles to choose from too! As a matter of fact, I’ve been spotting great pleather clothing items just about everywhere I shop making it clear to me that pleather is still a growing trend. […]

  3. […] Click Here for 2013 is the Year of Pleather […]

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