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Faux Leather: PU , PVC , and Bonded Leather


Faux leather, or imitation leather, refers to any material that resembles the look and feel of genuine leather. The materials range from flexible fabric to plastic, sometimes even paper. It is then coated, embossed or printed to simulate the appearance of real leather. Artificial leather and synthetic leather are also two of several names commonly used to describe faux leather.

There is a huge difference in cost and physical property between genuine leather and faux leather. It does not mean one is better than the other. But it is imperative to know what you are getting, and not getting. Here are a few popular types of faux leather that may have caused some confusion in the past:

What is PVC Leather ?

PVC leather is a type of faux leather that is made by covering a base of natural or synthetic material with vinyl, made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and plasticizers.

PVC has no hair-follicles (pores) which makes it virtually waterproof, but may become unbreathable in hot temperatures.

Due to its plastic nature, PVC leather requires no special care or conditioning in comparison to genuine leather, but may crack with extended use because of the application of plasticizers.

What is PU Leather ?

PU leather, also known as bicast leather, bycast leather or split leather, is made by covering a backing fabric such as cotton, polyester or shredded leather with a layer of polyurethane.

Its surface can be treated to look and feel like real leather, which makes it the most common faux leather these days.

Unlike PVC leather, PU leather has microfiber pores, which allows it to “breath” better than PVC, but still easy to clean and maintain like most plastic materials.

If you are budget-consciou, PU leather is a nice substitute for the real thing. PU leather may not last as long as genuine leather, but it is about half the cost of real leather products

In some regions, people consider PU leather as genuine leather when a stratified layer of animal hide is used as backing.

However, bicast leather neither develop a patina nor exhibit characteristics associated with aniline leather. Therefore the use of terms like “leather”, “genuine leather” or “100% leather” in relation to bicast treatment is not permitted in countries like Denmark, New Zealand, and United Kingdom.

What is Bonded Leather?

Bonded leather, also known as reconstituted leather, blended leather, composite leather or composition leather, is made from recycled leather off-cuts, trimmings and shavings that were discarded by the leather industry, then mixed with bonding materials.

It is made in rolls 140 cm wide, which gives it a better cutting yield than real leather.

It is hard to predict how a product made from bonded leather will perform over times. You may see flaking on the surface of lower-quality materials in a few years. But some better-quality bonded leathers may last longer than low-quality genuine leather.