Any way you look at it, leather denotes cruelty to animals. Even certain religions condemn its use because of this. For instance many Hindus would not use cow leather; and Jains would not use any kind of leather because it is obtained by killing animals. For other reasons, even Jews debar the use of leather on certain days and Muslims will not use pigskin.
There is another reason why leather should be avoided: there is a huge ecological impact of the leather industry. Tanning is a highly toxic process and the industry itself is very energy hungry; producing lots of waste and pollution. For these and any number of other reasons, the need to find alternatives to leather is important; so here is what you can use instead of animal hides.
1. Faux Leather
There are many words for this: pleather (plastic leather), synthetic or artificial leather, and so on. Unlike earlier leather substitutes like Rexine, many of these modern materials can have a very luxurious look and feel. Many of these artificial materials use plastics. For instance leatherette is made by overlaying fabric with plastic.
2. Cork Leather
This material is made from the bark of cork oak trees. Not only is it cruelty free it is also sustainable since the tree bark grows back within a few years.
Some companies create this material using industrial scrap such as old TV screens, scrap polyester and so on. It can be made to resemble high quality, hard wearing suede. Vegetan is one of the trade names for microfiber that is made to resemble leather.
4. Ocean Leather
This is another leather substitute that can look and feel like leather. This material is known as ocean leather because it is made from kelp, a type of large seaweed. This is an abundant and sustainable resource, which makes this an ecologically sound choice too.
5. Canvas or Textiles
While some fabrics or types of canvas can be made to resemble leather, they are a great looking, stylish and cruelty free choice even when they don’t resemble leather.
6. Vinyl or PVC
Polyvinyl Chloride is widely used in alternative, punk or Goth fashion segments because of its close resemblance to leather. It is also water proof.
7. Other Natural Materials
If you are an environmentally responsible person looking to make a fashion statement you can look towards other natural materials such as jute, hemp, bamboo and so on. Ethical designers are doing really creative and stunning things with these natural, sustainable materials.