How Are “Vegan” Leather Purses Made?

What on earth is vegan leather? How is that a thing?

When you hear the term “vegan leather purse,” you might think it sounds like a bad joke. (Aren’t all cows vegan? Bah-dah-bing!) But, au contraire, “vegan” leather has nothing to do with cows or other living creatures – the sources of natural hides. Vegan leather isn’t leather at all.

Universal Appeal

Nor is it the leather substitutes of old – gone are the days of crackling vinyl, stiff Naugahyde and tacky pleather (a fabric designed to look like leather). Today’s quality vegan or faux leathers are supple, flexible, and designed to last. Although vegans and vegetarians embrace vegan leather purses, backpacks, skirts, boots, and more, the appeal is universal – omnivores love them, too!

Not Your Mother’s Pleather

And speaking of pleather, don’t discount it; New York Magazine has called it “one of the rare trickle-up fabrics” of recent years. Today’s pleather and other vegan leathers are lighter than true leather, more water-resistant, more pliable, less likely to permanently wrinkle and, because they’re built from scratch, can have all kinds of properties applied.

Then there’s the added bonus of price: Faux leather just doesn’t cost as much as the real thing.

Hot Stuff

The Store at ESSE Purse Museum sells some of the hottest vegan leather purses in the game: Matt & Nat products, with their seemingly organic texture, appeal to the more tailored, buttoned-down-with-an-edge shopper; whereas Gunas bags, with their bright colors and girlier styles, might skew a little younger (or younger at heart). We’re thrilled to carry both wildly popular, meticulously made brands.

What Is a Vegan Leather Purse Made Of?

By now, you may be wondering just what is vegan leather made of – and the answer is that that answer can vary widely. For some types, PVC (yes, like the pipes) is the major compound. Other common materials are Vegetan and Lorica, both made of microfibers. Wear Birkenstocks? The iconic brand offers two vegan base materials, Birko-Flor, made of acrylic and polymide felt, and Birkibuc, which is made of the same materials but with a brushed, suede-like appearance.

Kydex, an acrylic-PVC alloy, is another option for making vegan leather purses. Additionally, a few of the more natural vegan leathers are cork- or kelp-based.

Vegan Purse Brands

So, what materials do the vegan brands sold at ESSE use? We’ll give that to you straight from the animal-loving sources.

Gunas doesn’t use “any leather, silk or genuine fur in our bags. We select the best manmade materials available to construct our bags. These materials, which include special faux nylons, synthetic microfibers and ultra-suede, are sourced from Japan, Germany, France, Switzerland and the United States and are manufactured using non-toxic methods.” Gunas does not use any PVC or vinyl.

Matt & Nat stress that it’s important to the company not to use leather. Instead, “various vegan leathers are used in production; the scientific terms are PU (polyurethane) and PVC (polyvinylchloride). … In addition to being vegan, sustainable materials are constantly sourced in design; these include recycled nylons, cork and rubber. Moreover, all our linings are made of 100 percent recycled bottles. Approximately 21 plastic bottles are recycled for every bag we produce.”

We just love our vegan leather lines – and we’re willing to bet you will, too. Shop the vegan leather purses available in the online ESSE store and call us at (501) 916-9022 if you have any questions.

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