When it comes to leather alternatives, the fake stuff has always had a major PR problem. Remember the '70s and '80s, with its ticky-tacky "pleather"? Or worse -- Naugahyde, which always sounded like (and rather resembled) a dog chew?
Well, no longer.
Increased eco-awareness and concerns about animal cruelty are partly responsible for a growing interest in faux or "vegan" leather, suggests Amy Breyer, a Hauppauge native, now a Los Angeles animal rights attorney and executive director of the Animal History Museum. But quality has a lot to do with it, too.
In decades past, pleather makers used plastic (often PVC, the stuff of bathroom plumbing) affixed to fabric. Now more supple polyurethane and other polymers have revolutionized the industry.
"Today's faux captures the soft feel and flattering lines of traditional leather," says Breyer, who staged a "compassionate couture" runway show last October during L.A. Fashion Week. (The event, which spotlighted young, indie labels using cruelty-free materials like faux fur and leather, was both a fundraiser for the organization and an awareness-raiser for the cause.)
"The only reason to wear real fur and leather these days is to affirmatively hurt animals and the environment," she says. "Most people just don't see a need to do that."
And top brands, once slow to faux, are warming to the idea. Comme des Garçons and Altuzarra have been creating luxe vegan jackets and bags for several years -- and Stella McCartney's been at it for more than a decade.
With Earth Day just around the corner, we scanned the racks in stores and online for some eye-catching faux leather options, and more eco-friendly fashion and beauty products.
Going vegan never looked -- or felt -- this good.
Mail in used tights and leggings (any brand) to No Nonsense and they’ll grind up the nylon/spandex material into filler used in park benches, running tracks, insulation and playground equipment; visit nononsense.com/recycle for info and downloadable mailing labels.
Faby's Nature Collection
Faby's Nature Collection includes six rich shades of nail polish, with 87 percent of its ingredients derived from wood pulp, cotton, maize, cassava and other raw vegetable materials -- instead of the more typical petroleum; $23 each at fabyusa.com.
Todd Snyder + Champion
Todd Snyder + Champion sweatshirt with faux leather sleevest; $195 at select Bloomingdale's.
NYDJ perforated-front faux leather moto jacket, in a light blue-gray shade; $198 at nydj.com.
Kiehl's is donating all proceeds (up to $50,000) of its limited-edition Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado (featuring labels designed by Elizabeth Olsen and Maggie Q) to the nonprofit Recycle Across America; $47 at Kiehl's shops and kiehls.com
BlankNYC tie-dye faux leather moto jacket; $128 at select Bloomingdale’s and bloomingdales.com.
Furla "bon bon" mini crossbody, in faux leather and goldtone hardware; $178 at select Macy's and macys.com.
L'Occitane offers refill pouches for many of its soaps, shampoos and more, so you don't have to throw away old jars and bottles. And here's an Earth Day special: this Almond Shower Oil (perfect for shaving legs) plus refill pouch, normally $87.50, now $62 at L'Occitane shops and loccitane.com.
Love Moschino quilted faux leather backpack; $260 at select Saks Fifth Avenue stores and saks.com.
Prosperity Candle's Forever line, handcrafted by Burmese women artisans resettled in Massachusetts, features luxe scents and complimentary lifetime refills; $65 (plus $12 shipping for future refills) at prosperitycandle.com.
Stella McCartney offers faux leather leggings, sandals, satchels and this metallic espadrille platform sneaker; $650 at select Saks Fifth Avenue stores and saks.com.
Calvin Klein faux leather moto jacket, in black or brown; $195 at select Macy's and macys.com.
100 Percent Pure
The fruit-pigmented lip glazes, $18, and blush (pictured here in a shade called cherry, $28) from 100 Percent Pure replace synthetic and chemical pigments with extracts of plum, pomegranate, cherry, berries, carrots and more; at 100percentpure.com.
Tarte beauty products are cruelty free and made of natural ingredients like plant extracts, vitamins, minerals and essential oils. This cheek stain will give you the perfect all-natural spring and summer glow; $30 at tartecosmetics.com.
Threads4Thought started as a collection of graphic tees, and has grown into a comprehensive fashion line made of sustainable materials.
Collette Tee; $44 at threadsforthought.com
Wide stripe zip hoodie, $78 at threadsforthought.com
Cole Haan vegan leather duffle bag; $598 at select Lord & Taylor stores and lordandtaylor.com.
Fashion brand Della not only uses eco-friendly textiles, but also helps provide jobs, education, and skills training to women and men in Ghana, West Africa. Every product is handmade, like this cute travel bag with vegan leather accents; $24 at dellala.com.
Eyebobs' sustainable bamboo readers come in a variety of fun styles and shades, including these coral cat-eyes; $89 at eyebobs.com.
NCLA identifies as a "5 Free" luxury nail lacquer, meaning that all of its pretty polishes are free of formaldehyde and other harsh chemicals. Plus; the company doesn't test on animals. This minty hue is AM: Beauty Sleep, PM: Shopping Spree; $16 at shopncla.com.
Organic cosmetics line ILIA Beauty's lipstick is packaged in a recycled aluminum case and is made with cocoa butter, beeswax and jojoba oil to nourish lips. This is Funnel of Love; $26 at net-a-porter.com.
Alex Woo teamed up with the new Disneynature film "Monkey Kingdom" to create these pendants. Twenty percent of the proceeds benefit Conservation International.
Sterling silver; $158 at alexwoo.com
14k yellow gold; $748 at alexwoo.com
Juice Beauty's Stem Cellular Instant Eyelift is made sans parabens, petroleum, phthalates and a host of other icky items, and replaces cotton pads (often laden with pesticides) with freeze-dried marine algae; $75 at ulta.com
Urban Decay's Good Karma Brushes are vegan and cruelty-free, made with synthetic hairs and recycled aluminum. Best of all, you can forget all those bloody code numbers that most brushes have-- each one of these has an actual name, so you know just what to use it for (lip, powder, crease and so on); $25 to $32 at urbandecay.com.
H&M's Conscious line for men and women is made of more environmentally friendly fibers, like organic cotton, recycled polyester and Tencel.
Lyocell Blouse; $34.95 at hm.com
Avalon Organics ensures that 70 percent of its ingredients are organic, like its Lavender Nourishing Shampoo and Conditioner, with a bottle made of recycled materials. Go to avalonorganics.com to find a retailer close to you.
Gramicci's cropped leggings, made of sustainable hemp and certified organic cotton (plus, y'know, some spandex), come with flat seams (to prevent chafing); $55 at rodales.com
East Setauket native Indie Lee's website offers luxe, "toxin-free" skincare alternatives-plus DIY instructions on how to make your own lemon toner, bath fizzies and more. This lemongrass-citrus body wash is free of parabens, phthalate, sulfate, and DEA; $22 at indielee.com.
Everyday Minerals products are vegan, eco-friendly, gluten-free and cruelty free. This bold, purple eyeliner will give your eyes amazing definition; $10 at everydayminerals.com.
Jane Iredale's Glow Time Full Coverage Mineral BB Cream is made of natural minerals and beneficial extracts including apple, grapefruit, orange, aloe leaf juice, honeysuckle and sunflower seed oil. It works as foundation, concealer, sunscreen and moisturizer to give skin a healthy glow; $48 at shop.janeiredale.com.
A Lot To Say, Inc.
Conscious lifestyle brand A Lot To Say, Inc. turns plastic bottles into fashionable products including Tees, reusable bags, bikinis and yoga wear, and a portion of proceeds is donated to help the planet. This days of the week underwear set is $75, at alottosay.com.
LaLicious creates all-natural bath and body products. This exfoliating sugar scrub is made with pure sugar cane crystals, cold-pressed coconut, and sweet almond oils with hints of citrus, rose and vanilla; $35, lalicious.com.
A portion of the proceeds from Rosena Sammi's Earth Day bangles go to the Conservation Fund; $49.99 for set of six at rosenasammi.com.
Orgo Completely Weightless SPF 29 Sunscreen face spray is made with titanium dioxide, a naturally occurring mineral, and octyl methoxycinnamate, an organic compound that protects the skin from UVA and UVB rays; $26 at beautycirque.com.
Marula — The Leakey Collection anti-aging, hydrating facial oil is derived from Marula nuts that are harvested and hand selected by women in East Africa. Only the fallen fruit is collected to make sure not to damage the environment, and the production provides rural women with a sustainable source of income; $78, at sephora.com.