Long story short: no, suede is a form of leather, hence not vegan! But if you want to know more about various types of suede leathers and faux suede materials (which are vegan), just keep reading.
While many consider suede to be one of the most superior forms of leather, the fact that it is leather from animal skin doesn’t sit right with vegans, of course! But owing to recent activism against the use of suede, fashion designers and technicians have come up with various vegan leather forms.
The same goes for suede leather as well. As the world’s technology becomes more and more advanced, we discover various artificial suede materials that do not use animal skin in production. Let us dive deep into the world of suede.
How is Suede Made?
Suede is usually made from the underside of animal hide. And usually, animals such as deers, lambs, calves, goats, and pigs, among others, fall prey to hunting and poaching activities and then end up being used to extract suede leather.
So, pure suede is not vegan. This also means that suede is quite different from normal leather. While normal leather uses the outermost layer of animal skin, suede needs the underside of the animal hide (mostly the belly area).
This also means that the attributes, look, and feel of leather are quite different from suede. Suede is generally much softer and comfy to touch and feel. The fuzzy texture comes from the tiny hairs on the animal skin.
You can also look at suede as split leather as it is used only to use some part of the skin that otherwise would go on to make real leather. Thus, as a material, suede finds a place at the peak when we consider unethical and animal-derived products.
Does Vegan Suede Exist?
Yes, vegan suede does exist. This material is made by using several cruelty-free alternatives. These include plastic, coffee, pineapple leaves, corks, vegetation, and food waste, among other alternatives.
But again, many of these can be questionable in terms of eco-friendly practices, and hence vegans try to avoid them. Let us learn more about it here:
There are many vegan suede-like materials available right now, and microsuede is one of them. This material uses millions of ultra-fine polyester fibres to create the ultra-soft animal skin texture.
Another added advantage of microsuede is that this leather is quite durable, unlike real suede. It is wear-resistant and water-resistant as well.
Ultrasuede is a popular vegan alternative to regular suede. While the actual suede texture is difficult to replicate in plant-based products, Japanese company Toray has been able to do it remarkably since the ‘70s. And this fine suede (highly used by designers) is called Ultrasuede.
So, yes, vegan suede very much exists and is, in fact, quite popular due to its added durability and resistance against wear and tear.
Issues With Vegan Suede
Even though vegan suede is gaining traction among fashion and lifestyle goods enthusiasts, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is great for the environment. There are a lot of issues associated with using vegan leather more widely.
Of course, many vegan leather products are made from plant-based ingredients. Most vegan suede is made out of plastic. So, again, it completely goes against the sustainability value that vegans stand for.
In terms of biodegrading, new vegan suede forms are more damaging than normal suede. Being essentially plastics, these suede forms take years to decompose and vanish completely as waste, whereas animal-based suede can quickly decompose.
Besides, mass production of plastic is an issue that even meat-eaters and environmentalists stand for alike. So, vegan suede is not all roses and sunshine because it comes with its issues.
Vegan Suede FAQs
Now that we understand the nitty-gritty of suede and vegan suede leave no doubt in your mind. In this section, we answer the most frequently asked questions about suede and vegan suede for you to understand the material even better.
- Is Vegan Suede Also Waterproof?
While most vegan suede material is made of fine plastic, it doesn’t need to be waterproof. However, it is water-resistant and weather-proof by all means. This is a great leap in functionality from your regular animal skin suede material.
- What Are Plant-Based Vegan Materials?
Not all vegan suede is produced using petrochemicals and plastics. While we do not have 100% plant-based vegan suede as yet, there are a few that seem like a step in the right direction.
For instance, we already talked about Ultrasuede above. This Ultrasuede is also called Ecodear and is plant-based to some extent. This material is produced by using extracts of sugarcane. But again, this process also requires the use of petrochemicals, which are plastics.
- How Do We Make Vegan Suede?
We use polyurethane to make vegan suede. The plastic is bonded with a fabric base to create a fuzzy suede-like texture. Various plastics like PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or PU (polyurethane) are majorly used in this process.
There are various kinds of pure suede leathers like sheepskin, cowhide, or pigskin suede made from the underside of the skin of these animals. This means, of course, pure suede is not vegan.
But the golden days of pure suede are far over. Vegan suede is the new jam of designers, artists, and enthusiasts. While this vegan leather is not made from animal skins, it is ultimately a form of plastic.
So, on the one hand, vegan suede is great in terms of no animal products needed to manufacture it, but on the other, it can be even more harmful to the environment. Overall, concerning texture and appearance, vegan leathers are great alternatives to the real thing if you must use suede in your lifestyle.