What is synthetic leather? Here we tell you some of its history, and some key facts about it:

What is synthetic leather? Here we tell you some of its history, and some key facts about it:

What is synthetic leather? Here we tell you some of its history, and some key facts about it:

The origin of leather goes back as far as we know the history of man himself. Back in the caves with a man in his most primitive species, there was the need to hunt animals and take advantage of almost all its parts to survive the harsh conditions. From there, animal skins were used to make clothes and shoes in an archaic way, but perhaps not so far from today's reality.  Although leather is one of the most valued materials worldwide by the different industrial sectors, for many, the need arose, for different reasons, to create a material that was as similar as possible but generated artificially, that is how today we cook the Synthetic Leather, Semi Leather, Synthetic Leather or Leatherette.

Its history goes back to the Germany of the Second World War, when the leather of animal origin became scarce, thus creating a new skin based on paper pulp. However, the Germans realized that this material was not the most suitable for matters related to footwear, as it resisted neither moisture nor to the tasks of the day today. Later, in 1963, a substrate was created from polyurethane and polyester, cataloged as the best for shoe manufacturing. Since then, synthetic leather varieties have been appearing in the market, perfect for the shoe sector.

Reasons for the use of artificial leather in furniture and footwear.

  • Natural leather is a benchmark of materials; however, many brands have been almost forced to look for another raw material to develop their product lines. As part of these reasons, we find:
  • Lower acquisition cost, which leads to lower prices of the final product.
  • Easier to cut and cook than with natural skin.
  • Easy to obtain and purchase.
  • Less environmental impact at the time of producing the material. This is a point to debate; many argue that while it is true that there is no animal slaughter or waste of water to tan natural skins, some synthetic skins also require industrial processes and the use of chemicals that are not environmentally friendly.
  • It offers an alternative for consumers who cannot wear genuine leather footwear for religious and ideological reasons.
  • It expands the range of options in terms of colors and textures for the design and manufacture of footwear.

Types of synthetic leather.

As already mentioned, throughout the history of humanity, we have been creating different types of artificial leather-based on other products. The most used in fashion and footwear are the following:

PU Polyurethane synthetic leather.

It is one of the most similar to natural leather and environmentally friendly, as it is obtained through natural fibers without the intervention of chemicals harmful to nature.  It is widely used for the manufacture of footwear for its porosity and characteristics similar to animal skin but also offers a variety of colors and textures that are not obtained with natural leather.

PVC leather.

Ecological leather or eco-leather are other names as it is known to this material attached to the conservation of the environment; its creation is given from renewable raw materials, such as tree bark, for example, in addition to plasticizing materials listed as ecologically sensitive. But, despite this, at the end of its useful life, this PVC cannot be biodegradable, representing a pollutant to the habitat.

Vegan Leather.

Those who defend nature and all living beings who coexist have created what is now known as vegan leather. Around the world, several people have dedicated themselves to this task and have achieved it with a variety of materials that include mushrooms, recycled plastics, natural rubber, etc. Despite its novel methodology, many brands have used it for the creation of vegan footwear.

Although it is an artificial substrate, synthetic leather offers many benefits for the manufacture of clothing and footwear. Although it does not share some characteristics with natural leather, if it can represent an excellent choice for the shoe industry, it all depends on their needs as a manufacturer. Many people, when hearing the word leather, immediately associate it with the skin of an animal. However, synthetic leather is not of animal origin.

Synthetic leather is known as eco-leather; it has a similar texture to a cow or other animal. It is a product whose raw material is not received by traditional procedures, which has been done for thousands of years. Synthetic leather emerges as an economical alternative to the leather of animal origin.

Synthetic leather is used in the manufacture of:

  • Jackets
  • Straps
  • Shoes
  • Bags
  • Wallets
  • Furniture
  • Among others

The advantages of synthetic leather are the low cost, the ease of cleaning, and the non-use of animals to obtain it.

There are also some disadvantages:

  • It doesn't have the same luxurious feel, both to the eye and the touch, it doesn't have the classic leather scent and is stickier than standard leather when warm, its durability and quality.
  • The purpose of synthetic leathers is to imitate animal fur and leather, so they are designed to look as close as possible to the natural raw material.
  • These designs, at first glance, are challenging to identify as fake. However, several characteristics differentiate them from genuine leather and fur, which will be mentioned in the following paragraph.
  • Differences between synthetic leather and leather of animal origin:
  • The main difference is the lower price of synthetic leather.

is made of plastic materials and is lighter in weight compared to genuine leather products.

There are two types of synthetic leather, polyurethane, and PVC; PVC, also known as eco-leather or eco-leather of the latest generation, does not have any prohibited or harmful substances in its composition. Therefore, other plasticizing materials replaced them. These combine the use of renewable raw materials, which makes the material more environmentally friendly. The main problem with PVC is the non-biodegradation and, therefore, the exposure as waste in the environment.

PU synthetic leather or PU leather is a biodegradable material, and for this reason, it has historically been considered environmentally friendly. The advantage of this material is that you can find more designs and colors than PVC because of its composition. But the difference between these two materials is that PU is usually of better quality than PVC, but this is not an intrinsic rule, as different qualities can be found in the two presentations.


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