Newsletter 3/2021 from Cotance, The European Leather Association
Leather: often copied, never equalled
In recent years, leather alternatives have gained traction in the media with unsubstantiated claims of being: “better” than leather; better for the planet and better for the consumer.
On first inspection, some of these substitutes hardly differ from a leather product.
The Research Institute for Leather and Synthetic Materials (FILK) in Freiberg examined the material properties of ten of the most frequently referenced alternatives to leather (DESSERTO, PINATEX, APPLESKIN, MUSKIN, SNAP PAP, KOMBUCHA, NOANI, TEAK LEAF, VEGEA as well as PVC/PUR) against material performance characteristics such as crack resistance, tear resistance, water vapour permeability and water vapour absorption and compared the results to those of leather.
The conclusion was that none of the tested materials could really be called an "alternative" to leather. None of them had all the performance characteristics of leather and FILK found even chemicals of concern or leather fibres in a material claiming to be vegan.
Typically, their product descriptions to the consumers often use and abuse the term "leather", in an attempt to associate themselves with the positive quality characteristics of leather, while in reality they fall into three categories: materials of natural origin (such as MuSkin, Kombucha, SnapPap), those materials, predominantly plastic, but with proportions of natural materials (Apple leather, Desserto, Pinatex, Vegea, Teak-Leaf), and products made exclusively from plastic, such as conventional PVC or polyurethane (PUR).
Better than Leather? Clearly not! Especially in terms of durability, which has obvious implications in environmental sustainability.
They are different and perform differently. It is an unfair commercial practice to confuse customers and consumers by naming them X-leather or employ defamatory comparative assertions with regard to leather in their marketing.
But above all, it is important that customers and consumers understand the performance deficit of such alternative materials and give this proper consideration to ensure that the products they buy will perform as they expect them to.
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