Sustainably Chic

Is There Such a Thing as Planet-Friendly Faux Leather?

FashionNatalie Kay

Guest Post by Coral Brown

Through the lens of sustainability, most of the global leather industry isn’t exactly squeaky clean. Leather tanning has been named as the fifth biggest pollution threat in the world, affecting the health of millions by contaminating water needed for drinking, washing and farming. Leather produced cheaply for the high street is often tanned in India, Bangladesh and China, where there are little or no regulations to protect the health and safety of either the tannery workers themselves or the surrounding communities. Clearly, something has to change.

Luckily, we can change the world by deciding what to buy, and there’s a number of different fashion brands overcoming these problems. Some brands use recycled leather, or work closely with small-scale artisans. Other brands are reaping the fruits of textile technology, using newly developed durable alternatives to leather using recycled materials. While faux leather isn’t always eco-friendly (what with PVC, which is Gross with a capital G), there are brands specialising in sustainable faux leathers.


Waxed Canvas Faux Leather by Vaute Couture

Vaute Couture’s alternative to leather is waxed canvas, which has been used in outerwear in the USA for 160 years by farmers and explorers alike. The canvas makes it breathable, while the wax makes it weatherproof, making it something of a godsend at defeating whatever the weather throws at you. It also looks better with age, maturing like a fine wine over time, and that is precisely what a sustainable fashionista likes to hear.


Recycled Polyester Faux Suede by Pammies

Last year Pamela Anderson launched her faux suede footwear brand Pammies, designed specifically for walking the dogs along the beach. The suede is made using recycled polyester, made using recycling technology that was handpicked for its minimal energy consumption. The material is colourfast and extremely abrasion-resistant. Plus, they look far too comfy to ever take off.


Recycled Faux Leather and Suede by Beyond Skin

All the linings of Beyond Skin’s shoes are made using 100% recycled faux leather with a vegetable polymer coating, earning them extra brownie points for sustainability. Their water-resistant faux suede is made entirely from recycled plastic bottles, and what’s more, it doesn’t watermark like real suede. They have cool metallic designs and pretty heels to match all that textile innovation, making these shoes the ultimate combo of aesthetics and ethics.


Cork Leather by Ono Creations

Cork has been hailed as one of the most sustainable and environmentally friendly materials known to man, as cork can be harvested from the same tree every few years without needing to chop it down. Not only is it water resistant (as I’m sure we all remember from school science lessons), but it’s also fire resistant. Ono Creations combine this sustainable supermaterial with certified organic cotton threads, bamboo linings and reclaimed teak buttons in their bags. 


Ultimately, the best plan of action is to stay informed about how your materials are made and what impact they have, leather or not. As sustainability expert Anna Lappe said, every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want. The inherent bonus is that you also get to keep the beautiful coats, bags and shoes you’re spending money on. We can all help create a safer, greener world, one chic pair of shoes at a time.


Coral Brown is a digital writer specialising in ethical fashion. You can find more of her articles at