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Blog > News
22.09.2021

Vegan Leather: What is it & its Benefits?

Vegan leather is an animal-free and cruelty-free way of making the popular material, leather. Discover vegan leather, what it is made from, and its benefits. At Giesswein, we’re inspired by this material and use it to make a stylish and comfortable vegan and sustainable sneaker. 

Table of Contents:

What is Vegan Leather?

A Brief History of Vegan Leather

What Is It Used For?

4 Benefits of Vegan Leather

What is it Made From?

Giesswein’s Innovative Vegan & Sustainable Sneaker

What is Vegan Leather?

Vegan leather is a material made to imitate leather without actually using the traditional methods and processes of leather itself. Vegan leather can be made from multiple different raw materials and in many different ways, and is often known as “imitation leather”. The development of these vegan leather materials makes it even easier to avoid the use of animal products and find sustainable materials for products such as  ethical shoes.

Traditional leather is made from animal hide. Hide is the skin of animals, usually from cattle like cows, and reptiles, like snakes or crocodiles. Leather is a traditional material which is often used to make products such as boots, bags, and car seats. It is naturally water resistant, warm, and durable. However, leather requires large amounts of chemicals and energy to be made into a fabric. Fortunately there are alternatives to this. Vegan leather is a leather substitute made without animal products with many benefits. 

There are vegan leather alternatives which work as well as real leather. Vegan leather exists in many forms. These leather alternatives can be made using PVC or polyvinyl chloride, often known as “pleather”, recycled rubber, or even cactus. With these different vegan leather alternatives available, it’s becoming easier to avoid real leather products. There are many benefits to this material which make it a great alternative to traditional leather for use in products such as  sustainable shoes

A Brief History of Vegan Leather

Vegan leather began life known as “fake leather”, “faux leather”, or “synthetic leather”. In fact, you may have already seen this alternative to leather, or even own some, before you heard it referred to as vegan leather. 

Faux leather originates from as far back as the 1920s. It was made by a US rubber company, who realised rubber could be used to make leather-like products at a cheaper cost. It was first used in handbags and the brand name “Naugahyde” was associated with artificial leather. It was later used by the US Armed Forces. In the later 1900s, the availability of petroleum plastics meant making artificial leather even more widestream

Now, many brands are using alternatives to traditional leather. With the environmental efforts and strides in veganism and animal-welfare, the term vegan leather is more commonly used to mean non-traditional, non-animal based leathers. 

What is it Used For?

Vegan leather can be used to make the sorts of products you may find in traditional leather. These could include handbags, car seats, shoes and boots, as well as larger objects like armchairs and couches. Vegan leather, when made well, can be just as durable as traditional leather. In fact, many apparel brands are making the switch to using vegan leather in place of actual leather. Men’s vegan trainers and women’s vegan trainers can be just as stylish and durable as leather shoes, but without the added environmental impact. Giesswein, are aligning their products with their environmental principles. By using sustainable and low impact materials, we are heading towards a future of  eco-friendly shoes.

4 Eco-Friendly Benefits of Vegan Leather 

There are many reasons why vegan leather works well as an alternative to leather. Leather requires large amounts of chemicals and energy to become a fabric. It also requires large amounts of land for the cattle needed to make leather. Some of these benefits include: 

  1. Avoids the use of animals - Vegan leather is made without the use of animal hides and does not contain animal products. This means unnecessary land is not used to keep animals like cattle, and avoids the harm that traditional leather brings to animals. 
  2. Produces less carbon dioxide - Animal agriculture can produce a large amount of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. Vegan leather cuts the animal out of the equation, thus reducing the greenhouse gases release. Vegan leathers made from plants, like cork or cactus, actually absorb carbon dioxide from the air. 
  3. Fewer toxic chemicals - Tanning leather is a process where the hides are coloured and processed into the material you see in products such as purses. This process releases large amounts of chemicals, which often end up in the local water supply. Vegan leather, such as cactus leather, is made without fertilizer or pesticides to reduce the toxic chemicals harming the environment.
  4. Requires less water - A large amount of water is needed to make traditional leather. Vegan leather made from plants such as cork or cactus are naturally irrigated by rainwater. Therefore, they don’t need as much water to become leather substitutes. 

Using vegan leather alternatives coincides with our  Green Strategy; as we try to align our products and production with a lower impact on the planet and better treatment of animals.

women’s sneakers are comfortable and stylish with vegan leather

What is it Made From?

Vegan leather can be made from multiple different materials. Ingredients such as cactus, pineapple leaves, and even cork are used to make this animal-free material. Here are just a few of the main vegan leather alternatives you can find:

* PU or PVC Leather - Often referred to as pleather, this material is made from a synthetic plastic attached to a fabric backing. Although animal-free, this form of material is thought to release chemicals and does not biodegrade. 

* Cork Leather - Made from the cork tree, this leather alternative is natural and sustainable. What’s more, the trees help to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by absorbing the gases in the air. 

* Cactus Leather - First made from pear cactus leaves by Mexican company, Desserto, this vegan leather is low-impact and low-maintenance. The resulting cactus leather is partially biodegradable and is organic. It makes a breathable material, as soft as leather, and doesn't need animals to be made.

There are more vegan leather alternatives being invented and made into great animal-free products every day. Animal-free leather can be used to make anything from car seats, to handbags, to stylish footwear.

Giesswein’s Innovative Vegan & Sustainable Sneaker 

men’s vegan leather sneakers reduce the impact on the planet

At Giesswein, we were inspired by this vegan leather made from cactus plants. That’s why we developed a sneaker made from cactus leather. Introducing the  Cactus Sneaker. We use completely biodegradable pear cactus fibres. The cactus species grown are indigenous and typical of the region. Our partner plantation in Mexico is also completely organic. They use no pesticides or fertilizers, meaning no additional chemicals are used in the material-making process, and no toxic chemicals enter the local water supply. This sustainable and vegan leather is ideal for making sustainable shoes. That’s why we love it for our Cactus Sneaker.

Some of the great qualities of these vegan cactus sneakers are: 

The temperature-regulating design means your feet stay warm like in your favourite  winter trainers. The cactus sneaker is also ideal as a pair of  summer shoes, because they help to keep your feet cool in warmer weather. With its natural rubber sole to provide grip, this  slip-resistant sneaker is ideal for a walk in the sun or a stroll to the shops. With an organic cotton footbed for extra comfort, your feet will be cushioned all day long. You can even swap out the footbed for an orthopedic one and turn your vegan sneakers into a pair of  comfortable sneakers with arch support

The reason we’re most excited about when it comes to our Cactus Sneaker, is of course that it is vegan and sustainable. As part of our Green Strategy, we’re aligning our products with our concerns for animal welfare. Using vegan leather to make a vegan and sustainable sneaker is just one of them. We also use  sustainable eucalyptus wood to make a  Wood Sneaker with all of the great properties of Merino wool. The  merino wool we use in our products is only from  mulesing free farms that take proper care of their  merino sheep

Giesswein Footwear 

We are a third-generation family business that cares about sustainability and making comfortable footwear. With  men’s trainers and  women’s trainers fit for any occasion, you can enjoy flexible footwear. Enjoy cosy nights at home with super soft  men’s slipperswomen’s slippers, and  kids’ slippers