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How To Buy Luxe Vegan Leather

Let’s face it, pleather ain’t pretty.

However, that doesn’t mean ALL faux leather options are pleathery. Before starting this blog (and one of the biggest inspirations behind starting it) was overhearing a mother/daughter conversation go something like this at Nordstrom:

Mom: It’s a cute bag, right?

Daughter: I guess, but, like is it even real leather?

I think that’s when it hit me, that leather is simply thought of by most as just another luxury material. Breaking that stigma could possibly be as easy (or so I hope) as showing that faux leather is not synonymous with pleather and that animal skin isn’t synonymous with luxury.

There are some great luxury lines that pride themselves on fabulous faux leather bags – that are also helping the environment. From Matt&Nat to Leni Penn, Jill Milan and Stella McCartney, you can’t go wrong.

But what about when you’re just out shopping? How do you choose quality, faux leather that looks and behaves just like the real thing?

These are a few hard & fast rules I follow to keep me from falling into pleather territory.

1. Texture

If you look at the heavy hitters in vegan luxury, you’ll notice their bags, belts and other “leather” accessories all have some sort of texture to them. They’re either pebbled, braided or ruched. There’s something, somewhere that gives the material depth and definition. Faux leather tends to look its “fakest” when it’s flat and 100% smooth. Luxury lines can play with the smooth look a bit more, because they make up for the missing depth with custom, quality color. But, overall if it doesn’t have any kind of texture or grain to it, stay away. Leni Penn does texture best with these oversized totes.

image courtesy of

image courtesy of

2. Color

Stay as neutral as you can, unless you’re buying from a five star brand that focuses on developing color for faux leather. Black, deep browns and nudes are safe bets. Rich browns are generally easier to pull off than chestnut and reddish browns. But there are some lines that pull bold colors off exceptionally well – especially when paired with exaggerated texture or better yet in faux suede like this Jill Milan wallet in a deep berry hue. But as general rule, neutrals tend to look more authentic.  Love this Matt & Nat satchel – the shape and color is too perfect for spring – also notice the pebbled texture. Be still my heart!

image courtesy of

image courtesy of

3. Stitching 

I think stitching is important to notice on all items – don’t you hate when stripes don’t line up on a dress? Or when a hem falls apart with just ONE gentle tug from your heel? Stitching that is even, tightly pulled (with no loose threads) and in a matching color are usually your best bets for a luxe, faux piece that won’t fall apart ten days after you bring it home.

4. Softness

Nothing screams fake, fake, fake like stiff, unmovable materials (same goes for body parts too lol).  Leather is soft, pliable and bends when you do – and so ANY faux bag that doesn’t move is going to look cheap from 9 miles away. One of my favorite, super affordable faux leather bags are these totes from Street Level (sold at Nordstrom). I get SO many compliments on this reversible light brown tote. It hits all the marks – soft, neutral color, texturized and classically stitched.bag 4

bag 2cropped 2Of course, every item is different and not all of these rules will apply to every single piece you find. But over the years, I’ve discovered when fake leather looks cheap it’s usually missing one or more of the above “rules.” Also, when you find a good company that makes incredible vegan leather – don’t be afraid to be that repeat customer. A few luxury, timeless items ALWAYS outweighs a closet full of pleather.




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