Fashion is something that a lot of people love and aspire to engage with throughout their lives. While most people don’t think twice about what they buy, some people have to take fashion into deep consideration.
One of these groups of people are those who follow a vegan lifestyle.
This is not all too surprising, as a lot of materials are made from animal products or directly from an animal itself. The most notable example of this is leather, made from the skin of a cow, but there are more subtle ones that you would never dream of.
With this in mind, you need to always be wary of what you buy and where you buy it from. Take suede for example, what is suede made from? Is it an animal product or is it completely vegan friendly? In this article, we seek to find this out.
What Is Suede?
Suede is a natural, manufactured fabric that is actually a type of leather.
It doesn’t look like most leather’s due to the part of the skin it comes from and the napped finish to the fibers used – the nap being the tiny hairs on the suede and skin that give suede the distinctive fuzziness that it is known for.
Suede actually comes from the underside of an animal’s skin (i.e. the soft part of the material). The most common animal to be used for suede is a lamb, but other animals that have had their skin turned into suede are ewes, rams, goats, calves, pigs, and even deer.
The reason that suede feels so different from other leather, despite coming from the same material, is that it comes from a different part of the skin – which is why some vegans get confused by it.
Normal leather comes from the top layer of skin, which is the layer you can touch on your arm. This layer is thick, durable, and tough, thus making hardy clothes, but suede is from the layer of skin beneath this, which is thin, weak, and soft.
This fabric is usually dyed and usually has a soft, velvety feel, which is why it is so highly prized by people who love fashion, with it often being used to make shoes and bags.
Is Suede Vegan?
Suede is not vegan, not even close. As mentioned earlier, you can only make traditional suede by using the skin of an animal. Since you cannot make suede from plant materials, then it is not vegan.
Normally, this skin is from a very young animal as well – lambs – so in the grand scheme of how ethical something is, this is far lower down than a lot of animal products (which are already pretty low).
Even for those who may be a bit more lenient of their vegan values, like if you ethically source wool or buy recycled products to use, we would strongly advise you not to buy suede.
Unlike wool, there is no way that the skin that is used for suede can be grown back or taken from the animal without the animal having to die for the product. It’s just not plausible.
Even if you think that buying something suede from a charity shop would be okay, I can’t say we agree. Normally, I would say go nuts, buy that nylon, as it stops it from being burnt or dumped, but for suede, it might be better to just never advertise it in the first place by wearing it.
How Is Suede Made?
For those a little sensitive towards this subject, it is probably best to skip this section.
The process of making suede begins with an animal – typically a lamb – being taken into an abattoir and slaughtered. The animal is then skinned, with the hide separated from the body.
The hide is then dried completely before all the hair follicles are removed using Lime, a chemical which burns the follicles from the hide. It is then turned into leather through the use of tannins – a kind of enzyme – and has salts and oils slathered on it to treat it.
At this point, the leather is split into two: the soft underside and the top layer. The soft underside is the suede, and this is often further processed to soften it and to dye it to the wanted proportions. After which it is sewed and cut into an item of clothing.
Is There Vegan Suede?
Thankfully, there is a vegan alternative to suede, and it is often called faux-leather. While this name is generally applied to a lot of materials that are synthetic products made to look and feel like animal ones, there is a suede version of it as well.
However, this shouldn’t be considered totally vegan. The faux suede is made from PVC or polyvinyl chloride and PU or polyurethane, since both of these products are made from petroleum, many vegans might have an issue calling them vegan.
This is because petroleum is a resource that is formed over millions of years from dead animals, like the dinosaurs.
While no living or modern animals are harmed in the making of this suede, many people feel that using these products kind of opens the door to other unethical products being used.
Not only that, but these products can release noxious and dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere during their production, meaning they might not be the best for the environment.
There are other products that you can use if you wish like suede made from cork, paper, apple leather, and mushrooms, but these might be hard to find as they do not yet have widespread appeal or acclaim.
If you can find these products, though, we would strongly recommend that you buy them. Not only will they look good, but they will feel very fashionable as well.
Suede is not vegan, as it is a kind of fuzzy leather that is often made from animals that have been slaughtered for the purpose of making suede. However, there are some vegan suede options if you can find them.