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Leather Fabric – Choosing the Right Types for Your Project

Leather fabric is great for many things, from accessories and shoes to your vehicle’s seats.  But is it worth the initial investment? I will discuss leather fabric and the various options available.

Leather fabric is made from tanned animal hides or other natural or artificial materials. It includes faux, vegan, vinyl, polyurethane (PU), and vegetable and chrome tanned leathers. Leather fabrics differ in production, use, and price and can be very durable and attractive.

Are you ready for a new vehicle but unsure about the different leather fabrics available?  Are you looking for an ethical leather fabric but confused by all the different options made today?

What is Leather Fabric?

Leather fabric is material from tanned animal hides or other natural or synthetic sources used to create various leather products.  Leather fabric can come from cowhide, pigs, crocodiles, and even stingrays.

This material is made to be durable and last a lifetime, especially with the right care.  Different types of leather fabric have varying degrees of the ability to withstand heat and cold, spills, stains, and environmental effects. 

Various Rolls of Leather Fabric - Leather Fabric - Liberty Leather Goods
Various Rolls of Leather Fabric

Higher quality leather fabric will have higher durability, and the cost will reflect this.  But if you think about the durability and attractiveness of leather fabric, trust me when I say the higher cost is most definitely worth it! Leather fabric products can include:

  1. Jackets
  2. Upholstery
  3. Automobile interiors
  4. Luggage
  5. Shoes

Types of Leather Fabric

So, what are the different types of leather fabric?  It goes well beyond genuine leather.  Let’s look at a few different types of leather fabric and how they’re made.

Faux Leather Fabric

According to researchers Ahmadi and Rahimi, faux or artificial leather is optimally made with a reinforcement fabric backing laminated with a polymer like polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride, which retains its strength even upon sewing by machine.  It looks, feels, and even smells like real leather, and no animals are involved in the process.  Faux leather fabric is a great choice for any home for a timeless, guiltless look.

Vegan Leather Fabric

Vegan leather fabric is usually made from a plastic called polyurethane to be more sustainable.  Other sustainable materials used to make vegan leather fabric include apple peels, cork, and even recycled plastic.  It’s a great alternative to leather and is cruelty-free and incredibly durable.  Vegan leather fabric does not fade, scratch, or fade easily.  It’s often a wonderful choice for practicing vegans!

  1. Bags/purses
  2. Boots
  3. Shoes
  4. Hats
  5. Gloves

To learn more about the strength and durability of vegan leather fabric, check out this helpful video experiment using a pair of vegan leather shoes.

Vinyl Leather Fabric

Vinyl leather fabric is made from polyvinyl chloride, a synthetic plastic created with petroleum products.  It’s a faux leather fabric that is soft, versatile, durable, and beautiful.  It’s very heavy-duty, much like genuine leather, and can last many years without noticeable wear.  Vinyl leather fabric is also UV resistant, which is great for use outdoors and always looks nice! Vinyl leather fabric is used for:

  1. Clothing
  2. Car seat covers
  3. Convertible car roofs
  4. Bags/purses
  5. Shoes

PU Leather Fabric

PU leather fabric is a synthetic polyurethane material that resembles natural animal hide.  It is not as attractive or durable as real leather, but it is an affordable alternative for some uses like bags, shoes, clothing, and upholstery.  PU leather fabric can be a bit more susceptible to moisture and water, which leads to the loss of elasticity with time and wear.

Leather fabric for upholstery comes in different styles, colors, and finishes to match your personality and desired aesthetic.

Vegetable Tanned Leather Fabric

Vegetable tanning is the process most often used in genuine leather production and uses natural tannins from vegetables and tree parts, including the bark and leaves.  This process is mostly done by hand, which takes great skill and patience. 

It may not age like other tanned leather and sometimes has a bit of a chemical smell.  The nature of this fabric is that over time and with more use, the material actually becomes more comfortable. Vegetable tanned leather fabric works well for leather items like:

  1. Saddles
  2. Belts
  3. Bags
  4. Purses
  5. Shoes

Chrome Tanned Leather Fabric

Chrome tanning is another common method for making natural leather.  The process makes the leather more durable, so it lasts longer and resists breaking down by making collagen molecule bonds more sturdy.  It’s a softer leather often found in vehicle interiors, bags, and furniture.  Chrome tanned leather fabric is what is most often seen today in furniture stores, car dealerships, and some clothing stores.

Popular Leather Fabric Uses

There are so many different types of leather, but what can they all be used for?  Let’s take a look at a few common categories.

It’s highly resistant to moisture and repeated wear, making leather fabric perfect for high-use personal accessories to last a very long time.

Leather Fabric for Upholstery

Upholstery is a very popular use for leather fabric.  From couches to automobile interiors, leather fabric is soft and supple while highly durable.  It is comfortable to touch and sit on and resists stains and tears.

  Leather fabric for upholstery comes in different styles, colors, and finishes to match your personality and desired aesthetic.  Leather fabric for upholstery will last a long time and never go out of style.

Leather Fabric for Clothing

Leather fabric is popular for all clothing types.  The most common are sheep, pigs, goats, and cow’s hide for leather clothing.  Because it is highly durable and has insulation properties, leather fabric is well known for being made into jackets, pants, and coats.  Leather fabric for clothing is warm, soft, stretchy, and always a fashion statement.

Leather Fabric for Personal Accessories

Leather fabric is highly sought after for personal accessories. Researchers Nam and Lee of Iowa State University stated that the footwear industry is developing biodegradable leather alternative materials, which is a huge step in sustainability. 

Leather fabric for personal accessories is long-lasting, durable, and always in style.  It’s highly resistant to moisture and repeated wear, making leather fabric perfect for high-use personal accessories to last a very long time. Leather fabric is great for leather products, including:

  1. Handbags 
  2. Purses
  3. Suitcases 
  4. Wallets
  5. Boots 
  6. Belts 

Favorite Leather Fabric Pieces

To learn more about leather fabrics, I asked several friends and family members about their favorite leather fabric pieces.  Here is a table representing the percentages of their responses and what I learned from the poll about which leather fabric items people favored the most. 

Leather Fabric ItemTimes Selected
Car seats11%
Convertible top on my car3%
Favorite Leather Fabric Items

Leather Fabric Insights

What is leather fabric made of?

Leather fabric is made of tanned animal skins and other natural and synthetic materials. Almost any animal hide can be made into leather fabric for many different uses.

How much is a yard of leather fabric?

The price for a yard of leather fabric ranges from about $10 per yard for faux or vinyl to about $50 per yard for genuine leather.  The higher the quality of the fabric, the higher the price.

Is leather cloth real leather?

Leather cloth is usually made of plastic or cotton and then coated, embossed, or finished to imitate genuine leather.  So it’s not real leather, but a great imitation of leather.

What is the difference between genuine leather and artificial leather?

The main difference between genuine leather and artificial leather is the genuine form is made from authentic animal hide, while the artificial or faux is a form of plastic with dye or wax to imitate the texture and color of genuine leather.

Is man-made leather durable?

Man-made leather, or faux leather, is highly durable but not as much as genuine leather.  Man-made leather mimics leather, but because it’s made of plastic materials, it will break down quicker than genuine leather.

Is man-made leather real leather?

Man-made leather is not real leather but rather faux or artificial leather.  It’s made of several different materials, like different types of plastic and cotton, but it mimics real leather in many ways.

Final Thoughts

Leather fabric is an excellent choice for many items we use daily, from purses and shoes to couches and car interiors.  It has a great look, is very durable, and can last a very long time with the proper care.

Leather fabric may be pricier than other fabrics, but it will be worth it in the long run as an investment.  Comfortable?  Check.  High quality?  Check.  On your shopping list?  Well, what are you waiting for?

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