Seat covers: Leather and vegan alternatives

What are the differences and which leather is right for me?

We have been covering the seats of our piano benches with high quality genuine leather for twenty years to offer the best quality to our customers. And without discussing it much. But now we have arrived in a world where we have to take our responsibilities very seriously.

With our cowhide covers, we have always made sure that the supply chain is traceable. The skins come from Austria and are tanned and finished in the EU according to our laws and rules. We would never have offered leather produced in countries with dubious environmental rules and labor regulations.

But even with leather from domestic production, we must recognize that they bring a high burden on the environment. These arise, on the one hand, already by the attitude of the cattle. On the other hand, a lot of water is needed in the tannery, which is mixed with metal salts and – in the best case – has to be freed of them again.

The leather is then pigmented and mated, i.e. given a chemically produced protective coating. This layer is tight and closed and allows easy and hygienic cleaning of the leather. That’s good.

However, to be honest, we then sit directly on this top layer, the properties of which are quite different from an open-pored leather.

Throughout leather production, there is a risk of salts and chemicals polluting the environment and the product. The only remedy is to find manufacturers and suppliers who deal with these risks openly and responsibly, and who themselves actively seek meaningful certifications and improvements.

Faux leather or vegan leather substitute

Synthetic materials have been developed and manufactured under the term imitation leather since about 1960, and this name still has all the memories of cracked briefcases and motorcycle seats.

Today, a huge amount of artificial leather is produced and consumed worldwide, and the spread of quality and environmental impact is at least as high as in the real leather sector.

Here, too, it only helps to look for manufacturers who, on the one hand, meet high requirements for material quality and durability and, on the other hand, actively pursue and document the path to environmentally friendly manufacturing.

For our “vegan leathers” we have found a manufacturer in Germany that does all of its manufacturing in one location. It conducts and publishes a sustainability assessment for its production.

Our preferred product is virtually indistinguishable in feel from a coated cowhide. According to the measured values and also our own tests, the wear resistance is at least as high as with “real” leather. While this shows a visible smoothing of the surface in intensive use, the “vegan leather” remains completely unimpressed. We conducted the most important experiment on hot days in summer. Several subjects were asked to use the seats continuously for several hours at a time. The result was clear, the vegan cover was more comfortable, not sticky, overall cooler and airier.

Cowhide or vegan leather?

It remains a matter of personal choice and also attitude towards animal husbandry. We will gladly send samples to interested parties for direct comparison.

But when we are asked about it, we are happy to give our recommendation for the “vegan leather”, for which we do not want to use the term “imitation leather” at all because of its convincing properties.

Sources: National Geographic, Leatherpedia, Quarks, Sustainfashion, Masterclass, Vogue, Albert Schweitzer Foundation.

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