Not all animal leather is created equal. From full-grain varieties to mass-produced genuine leather, each type has a unique set of characteristics. And this variety somewhat extends to vegan leather. For example, a vegan leather jacket crafted from a synthetic material will have different physical properties to one made out of apples.
While qualities certainly vary, there are a few traits that are typical of vegan leather. Start with smell. Part of the allure of quality animal leather lies in its rich and earthy aroma: a product of the tanning process. In contrast, synthetic leather has a plastic-like smell (owing to the chemicals employed during manufacturing) or no scent at all.
So is vegan leather durable? By the lofty standards of high-quality animal leather: no. Expect a shelf life of between 2-5 years for consumer goods. As vegan leather is normally thinner, it’s more prone to general wear and tear, as well as discolouration. That said, developments in vegan leather are being made all the time, so longevity should diminish as an area of concern in the future.
As quality animal leather ages over time it begins to absorb moisture and oils from its environment, causing it to take on a richer complexion. Patina, as the phenomenon is known, is revered by leather aficionados; for some it is the ultimate indicator of quality. Far from porous, synthetic leather is actually water-resistant, meaning it is unable to develop a patina (although water resistance is certainly a welcome perk).
Vegan leather certainly boasts desirable properties, as well. It’s easy to work with, thin and stretchy — an ideal material for creating anything from upholstery to clothes. Water and stain resistance are two more beneficial traits for manufacturers and consumers alike. Pleather can also be treated with different finishing treatments and dyes that alter the texture and colour of the material, ensuring an unrivalled degree of versatility.