The Great Debate: Synthetic vs Real Leather

In the world of interior design, architecture, and furniture making, making informed choices about materials is essential. In this blog post, we bring you a comprehensive guide to one of the pivotal decisions you’ll encounter in your projects: the choice between synthetic and real leather. We’ll delve into the key differences between these two materials, including their production processes, maintenance requirements, durability, environmental impact, and costs. Whether you’re designing a new space or looking to upgrade your existing space, understanding these distinctions will help you make the right choice for your needs.

Synthetic (Faux) Leather

1. Production Process:

Synthetic leather, also known as faux leather, is manufactured using a combination of plastic materials such as polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). These materials are layered, textured, and colored to mimic the look and feel of real leather.

2. Maintenance/Cleaning:

Synthetic leather is relatively easy to clean. It can be wiped down with a damp cloth and mild soap. However, it may not be as resistant to long-term wear and tear as real leather.

3. Durability:

While synthetic leather can be durable, it tends to wear out more quickly than real leather. It may crack or peel over time, especially in high-stress areas. The durability depends primarily on what materials are used during the production process.

4. Environmental Impact:

The production of synthetic leather involves the use of plastics, which can contribute to environmental issues, including pollution and non-biodegradability. However, some manufacturers are working on eco-friendly alternatives.

5. Costs:

Synthetic leather is generally more affordable than real leather, making it an attractive option for budget-conscious projects.

6. Common Applications:

Apparel, furniture, cabinets, and wall paneling

Real Leather

1. Production Process:

Real leather is made from animal hides, most commonly from cows. The process involves tanning and processing the hides to create a durable, natural material. Today, leather is often made using machinery, although some leather producers still make it by hand, similarly to how it was made hundreds of years ago. Regardless how the leather is made, it is a time consuming process that requires specialized machines, tools, and labor.

2. Maintenance/Cleaning:

Real leather requires more specialized care. It should be regularly conditioned with leather-specific products to maintain its softness and prevent drying or cracking. Cleaning should be done with care to avoid damaging the surface.

3. Durability:

Real leather is known for its exceptional durability and longevity. Leather has been a popular material for thousands of years and remains one of the most desirable textile products still today. Cavemen would use leather for clothing, shelter, and even tools and weapons (tying rocks to their hatchets and spears). With proper care, it can last for decades, making it an excellent choice for high-end projects.

4. Environmental Impact:

The production of real leather has an environmental impact due to the cattle industry, but it can be mitigated through sustainable and ethical sourcing practices. Additionally, some eco-conscious consumers prefer real leather for its biodegradability.

5. Costs:

Real leather tends to be more expensive than synthetic alternatives due to the cost of animal hides and the craftsmanship involved in tanning and processing.

6. Common Applications:

Apparel and furniture

 

  Synthetic Leather Real Leather
Other Common Names faux leather, pleather, artificial leather, fake leather, vegan leather hide, skin
Fabric Composition PVC or vegetable oils tanned animal skins
Fabric Breathability Low Low
Moisture-Wicking Abilities Low Low
Heat Retention Abilities High High
Stretchability Low Low
Prone to Pilling/Bubbling Low Low
Ease of Cleaning High Low

 

In your journey through the design process for construction projects and deciding to incorporate leather into them, consider the specific requirements of your project, your budget, and your commitment to environmental sustainability. By weighing these factors carefully, you can select the ideal material that aligns with your values and meets the needs of your clients. The choice between synthetic and real leather can significantly impact the aesthetics, durability, and sustainability of your projects. While synthetic leather is cost-effective and easy to maintain, real leather offers unmatched longevity and a timeless appeal.

 

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