Cruelty-free fashion trend seems to be on the upward trajectory and a lot of brands are riding the wave. But how do you know if the materials used as leather substitute are high quality or not? Just because you want to be animal and planet-friendly doesn’t mean you should settle for less in terms of quality. There are a lot of low quality leather substitutes, such as PU or PVC, currently in the market. We have done our research and switched from genuine leather to a material that is superior in every way - scientific leather. Let’s discuss the particulars of scientific leather and also about other leather substitutes in the market. This way you’ll become a more informed buyer, no matter what brand you end up buying.
So… What is scientific leather? Why did our team here at Borboleta, after years of research, switched to this kind of leather?
Scientific leather is made 100% from microfiber. There are many factories making microfiber leather, but the one we chose uses technology from Japan. This innovation yields the look, feel and durability of genuine leather, but better in a way that it is waterproof, more resistant to molds and 30% lighter than genuine leather.
Now let’s compare the price of genuine leather and scientific leather. The price per square inch for each kind of leather is almost the same. However, our scientific leather bags are priced lower than the for genuine leather bags in the market. This is because there is less leather waste in production with microfiber leather. It was made in the lab, so every inch is perfect, unlike genuine leather.
Genuine leather has normal scratches like any other types of skins. When used in bags or shoes production, one would have to cut around these scratches and imperfections, producing a lot of waste at the end. This practice contributes to higher retail prices for genuine leather bags and shoes. You basically pay extra for leather waste that will end up in landfill and pollute the environment.
Let’s discuss the two other materials that are commonly used as genuine leather substitutes - PU and PVC. PU (or Polyurethane) is a synthetic leather that is made from bicast or split leather (by product of leather) and then laminated and strengthened with a polyethylene top layer. It is has better stretch and more breathable than PVC. It feels and looks a lot like leather, but it has a short life.
It is likely to flake or become brittle after about 6 months or so. PU is cheaper than leather, but costs a bit more than PVC. PU is a greener alternative to PVC because it does not require the same chemical plasticizers in production.
And now about PVC (Polyvinylchloride), or commonly known as vinyl. PVC is “essentially a flexible plastic made from PVC resin, various fillers, and additives such as plasticizers to manipulate its softness, color and texture.” Polyvinylchloride is used at the end of the process to coat the center layer. Credit. PVC is inherently flame-resistant so it is generally used in products that need to meet the fire code standards. Even though PVC production and waste is known as more hazardous to the environment, some PVC manufacturers are now moving toward lowering emissions and hazardous waste, as well as recycling PVC wastes to minimize non-biodegradable product in landfills. By purchasing a bag or shoes made from PVC, you can not possibly find out the manufacturer practice, so we recommend to avoid any products made of PVC altogether.
Take a look at the table below to compare PU, microfiber leather, and genuine leather.
You can see here that microfiber leather has all the good qualities of leather, but it better that it’s lighter than genuine leather and is mold-resistant. PU is not a good choice because it is not durable (usually PU leather becomes flaky after about 6 months of use, especially in humid and hot weather). Some people prefer PU leather bags because of the lower price points, but if you consider that you have to throw away the bags after about half a year or so, it’s not a good investment. Perhaps it’s better to spend a bit more on microfiber leather bags or genuine leather bags (which is not the animal friendly choice, but we won’t judge) that you can use for a long time.
To sum up the good qualities of scientific (microfiber) leather and the main reasons why we only use this kind of leather now:
- 30% lighter than genuine leather. No more shoulder and back pain when carrying your bag all day.
- Durable, soft and supple, like genuine leather.
- Waterproof and scratch resistant. Very easy to care for.
We hope this article helps shed some light on different materials used the accessory world. Here at Borboleta, we handpick every material and hardware to ensure the best quality and durability so you can enjoy your Borboleta bags everyday, for a long time. We design every bag with your lifestyle in mind, that’s why you’ll find that the bags are multi-functional and have lots of pockets to organize your things. Also, every purchase helps fund breakfast and educational programs for hill-tribe students in the North of Thailand. We believe in building a better future together for everyone involved - you, our team, and underprivileged students. Thanks for reading along and for being apart of the Borboleta family.