Leather is a material that has been used in fashion and clothing for centuries. Although these days it is considered a luxury item, 50,000 years ago it was an essential material that was adapted to help keep our ancient ancestors warm and protected.

Communities all over the world evolved their methods of processing the animal skins to suit their own needs. Palaeolithic man would boil the skins in tree bark to keep them soft and would rub animal fat into them to keep them malleable. As the centuries passed, and the use of leather expanded, tanneries opened up in cities all over Europe, becoming a profitable global trade for many countries.

It was the industrial revolution that significantly expanded leather as a global trading commodity, reducing the overall production costs of the material so that it could be used more widely in clothing. However, genuine leather still retains that element of luxuriousness and a high price tag, setting genuine premium brands apart from cheaper alternatives.

The rise of the ‘ersatz’ leather market is driven by two key factors:

  • The hunger for ‘luxury’ at an affordable price
  • The rise on more socially conscious leather goods which do not involve the slaughter of animals for their skin.

The rise of the ‘genuine fakes’

The global market for counterfeit luxury brands is about $4.5 trillion, and the production of fake leather goods is one that is being constantly policed. However, if is hard to deny that there is a real market for a demographic that has less disposable income, but still a great thirst for fashion.

At markets throughout tourist hotspots across Europe and Asia, ‘genuine’ leather products, often stamped with a brand name that comes close to being a complete rip off, are piled high and sold cheap to willing buyers who know that they are not buying the real thing but are happy to do so anyway as they are unable to afford the real thing.

In the meantime, genuine manufacturers of leather bracelets, belts, jackets, shoes and bags maintain high ticket prices and becomes even more aspirational. Ultimately the existence of the ‘genuine fake’ marketplace exists to give greater credibility to the genuine brands who are fiercely protective of their extremely high standards of quality and craftsmanship, and are unapologetically expensive. 

The rise of vegan ‘leather’

In an increasingly socially conscious world where activism is increasingly driving trends in fashion, vegan leather is becoming a popular material of choice which is driving a potentially $100 billion plus global industry. 

Fundamentally, vegan leather in fashion is produced without recourse to any animal products, or animal by-products. However, not all vegan leathers are the same. One version contains two different synthetic polymers – polyurethane and polyvinyl chloride. However, these components are not bio degradable, and are consequently cannot claim to be environmentally friendly. For this reason more investment is being made into creating plant based leathers from products as diverse as cork, kelp, and pineapple leaves. 

The key difference between the two products (genuine animal skin leather and vegan leather) is durability. While real leather, if cared for, can last for decades, if not longer, fake leather will degrade quicker. And of plastic based, rather than plant based, will end up in landfill. 

It remains to be said that there is room for both types of leather, and there will always be a market for both. Genuine leather will maintain its ultimate grip on the premium luxury market, however as the quality of vegan leather changes and evolves, and becomes more and more plant based, it will establish its own place in the global leather market. You can also visit here Now


  1. Vegan leather is becoming a popular material of choice, generating a potentially $100 billion+ worldwide sector in an increasingly socially conscious society where activism is influencing trends in fashion.

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