Nix’s Rant about Vegan Leather

I get asked constantly about vegan products or if any of my products can be made with vegan materials. The short answer is no. Leatherwork is a specialized skill which requires tools that are unique only to leather and aren’t used for anything else. Asking me to “just make it the same way out of something else”, is the equivalent of asking a baker to make cookies out of yarn. It just doesn’t work.

Are there people out there who make vegan products out of synthetic materials or imitation leather? Absolutely! And if that is what you’re looking for you should definitely hit them up. But here is my caveat, a lot of people like to call various synthetic products “vegan leather”. It isn’t. Leather is by definition made from an animal hide. Much in the same way a cubic zirconia is not a diamond. In order for a product to be sold and marketed as leather it legally has to meet certain criteria. One of those criteria is how much of the product is derived from ANIMAL hide. Not pineapple, not mushrooms, ANIMALS.

Now I’m not trying to dog on the other products. I’m sure there is some pretty cool stuff going on in these new materials and synthetics, but that still doesn’t make it leather even if the goddamn Huffington post calls it that.

Why is this important? It’s important because none of these products will feel exactly like leather will. This is important because I constantly have people coming to me saying they want a vegan product that feels like the beautiful deerskin flogger they felt once upon a time.

I’m sorry, but it’s just not going to happen. I’ve searched. Believe me, if I thought there were a vegan product out there that felt as good as leather did in a flogger I would be all over it. I get asked often enough that I would be after it just to get people to stop asking me and then annoying the hell out of me after I say no with questions like, “What if you make it out of an old leather jacket?”

But there isn’t. It’s just not the same. All of them have different reasons of why they’re not the same so I’ll just leave it at that. For those who are vegan out of concern for the environment, many of these products are actually more harmful to the environment in their creation than leather is. So if your hope is to make a purchase that is earth friendly, I recommend you do quite a bit of research before buying imitation leather products or you’re really just serving a false sense of self-righteousness and not actually accomplishing anything.

And before people jump down my throat saying, “But I have an imitation leather jacket, pair of boots, purse, etc, etc and it feels just like real leather!”. Stop. The leather used to make floggers is NOT the same that is used to make clothing or footware. They are completely different types of tan, different thicknesses and weights and yes it does matter. A flogger made from a jacket, even a real leather jacket, will feel and throw like shit.

There is a common misconception out there about a leather called Veg Tan leather. This is NOT vegan leather. It is leather that has been tanned with vegetable oils and I can assure you, it is made from an animal hide. Most likely a cow. It is the same type of leather used in saddles, equine tack and a lot of high end leather goods. This misconception comes from people glancing at the name without really looking at it, and Tandy Leather capitalizing on the fact that they can sell veg tan leather to any person who doesn’t know anything about leather walking into their store and asking for vegan leather.

Seriously. I’ve known several people who took classes at Tandy thinking that they were being good vegans because they were working with veg tan leather and the instructors just smiled and nodded and refrained from actually explaining that no, it is still animal hide just so they could rake in the class fee.

To be fair, veg tan leather looks different from normal leather. It is a light tan color, usually referred to as naked leather, and almost looks like worbla with a fuzzy side. This is because it is made to be dyed by the leatherworker outside the tannery. It can also be tooled or molded using water and leather working tools. It is what I use to make my armor, D20 purses, and anything else that needs a hard sturdy leather or that I need to dye on my own.

So in short, no I won’t make you a vegan anything. I’m not re outfitting my shop with tools that will work with the stuff and re inventing ways to make all my products. I completely get that people want to be vegan because the poor animals. I’m a vegetarian and have been for almost ten years and can’t understand how people can eat meat once they know how shitty our farming practices are. And yes, I do purchase my hides from a tannery that gets their hides from the meat industry. No, I don’t feel the need to justify or explain my reasoning behind this.