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The Global Leather Industry

The Global Leather Industry

Table of Contents The leather industry has been a key player in the global commerce market for millennia, some even claiming that it may be the ...

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Common Questions About Vegan Leather Bags


What is the difference between leather and vegan leather?

Leather is produced by tanning the hide of an animal, using either the traditional ‘vegetable tanning’ method or the faster, but more environmentally damaging, ‘chrome tanning’ method. Animal hides have been used by humans for thousands of years and the strength and durability of leather means that it has a very wide range of uses. 


Vegan leather describes a range of products, which attempt to replicate the qualities of leather using non-animal materials. Many commercially available vegan leathers are made using petro-chemical derivatives, their production is damaging to the environment and they are not biodegradable. In recent years more environmentally friendly vegan leathers have been developed, particularly, mushroom-based products and cork leather. 


No vegan leather is as strong or as durable as leather, but cork leather is an impressive substitute; it is lighter than leather and surprisingly strong and durable.


What are vegan leather bags made from?

New vegan leathers are being developed all the time, though many are not yet widely available. It is possible to make vegan leather from fruit waste, mushrooms, cork and even ‘sewable slate’, however, most fast-fashion vegan leather bags are made from PVC and polyurethane, which are extremely environmentally unfriendly materials.


Are vegan leather bags durable?

The answer to this question will depend entirely on what type of vegan leather your bag is made from and the quality of the fittings and construction. Inexpensive, fast fashion, vegan leather bags are unlikely to last very long, seams are likely to split and zips to become detached. There are, however, plenty of vegan leather bags on the market, which are durable. Cork leather is an excellent alternative to leather; it is light, strong, durable and attractive in appearance.


Are vegan leather bags waterproof?

Most vegan leather bags are waterproof. Bags made from PVC and polyurethane are likely to be 100% waterproof, whereas bags made from organic materials, such as fruit waste are likely to be permeable. Cork leather is natural, organic material, which, because of its unique cell structure, is completely waterproof.


Are vegan leather bags expensive?

It is possible to buy very cheap vegan leather bags, but they will not be durable and they will not be biodegradable. A good quality vegan leather bag should have high-quality stitching and high-quality fittings and you should expect to pay a comparable price to that of a similar size leather bag.


How to care for a vegan leather bag

Vegan leather is not a single material, it can be produced in an increasing variety of ways and therefore you should always consult the manufacturer’s advice when it comes to cleaning your bag. Generally speaking, you will not need to apply creams or oils, as you might with a leather bag. In most cases, dirt and surface marks can be removed using warm soapy water and a non-abrasive cloth. Your bag should be dried with a soft cloth after cleaning, not by placing the bag in front of direct heat. 



It can be hard to find a vegan leather bag that doesn’t contain some form of non-biodegradable plastic, however, there are an increasing number of new developments in sustainable vegan leather production, including, most notably, leather made from cork. Other materials used to make vegan leather include pineapple leaves, fruit waste, mushrooms and even ‘sewable slate’.


Cork leather is the most environmentally friendly vegan leather on the market. The leather is made from the bark of Cork Oaks, a tree that is native to the Mediterranean. Harvesting the cork from the trees helps stimulate regeneration, which extends the life of the tree. The cork is then dried for 6 months, boiled then pressed into sheets and bonded by suberin (an adhesive that occurs naturally in the cork) before a fabric backing is added.


Cork is water and flame-resistant, as well as being hypoallergenic. It has a smooth and shiny appearance and, not dissimilar to leather, only gets better with age. Cork leather is lighter than real leather, but it is also strong and durable. This means that cork leather travel bags and backpacks are lighter to carry but still strong enough to hold your belongings. 


MAHI are proud to introduce our new vegan cork leather in our classic backpack and duffle bag designs; bags made to the same high standards as our leather range, with quality fittings and sturdy stitching to ensure that they will give years of use.