Artificial leather is a material intended to substitute for leather in fields such as upholstery, clothing, footwear and fabrics and other uses where a leather-like finish is desired but the actual material is cost-prohibitive or unsuitable. Artificial leather is marketed under many names, including "leatherette", "faux leather", "vegan leather", "PU leather" and "pleather".
Many different methods for the manufacture of imitation leathers have been developed.
One of the earliest was Presstoff. Invented in 19th century Germany, it is made of specially layered and treated paper pulp. It gained its widest use in Germany during the Second World War in place of leather, which under wartime conditions was rationed. Presstoff could be used in almost every application normally filled by leather, excepting items like footwear that were repeatedly subjected to flex wear or moisture. Under these conditions Presstoff tends to delaminate and lose cohesion.
Poromerics are made from a plastic coating (usually a polyurethane) on a fibrous base layer (typically a polyester). The term poromeric was coined by DuPont as a derivative of the terms porous and polymeric. The first poromeric material was DuPont's Corfam, introduced in 1963 at the Chicago Shoe Show. Corfam was the centerpiece of the DuPont pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair in New York City. After spending millions of dollars marketing the product to shoe manufacturers, DuPont withdrew Corfam from the market in 1971 and sold the rights to a company in Poland.
Leatherette is also made by covering a fabric base with a plastic. The fabric can be made of natural or synthetic fiber which is then covered with a soft PVC layer. Leatherette is used in bookbinding and was common on the casings of 20th century cameras.
Clothing and fabric uses
Artificial leathers are often used in clothing and fabrics.
A disadvantage of plastic-coated artificial leather is that it is not porous and does not allow air to pass through; thus, sweat can accumulate if it is used for clothing, car seat coverings, etc. One of its primary advantages, especially in cars, is that it requires little maintenance in comparison to leather, and does not crack or fade easily.
- Clarino: manufactured by Kuraray Co., Ltd. of Japan.
- Fabrikoid: a DuPont brand, cotton cloth coated with nitrocellulose
- Lorica: manufactured by Lorica Sud, an Italian tannery
- MB-Tex: Used in many Mercedes-Benz base trims
- Naugahyde: An American brand introduced by Uniroyal
- Rexine: a British brand
- Kirza: A Russian form developed in the 1930s consisting of cotton fabric, latex, and rosin
- Piñatex: made from pineapple leaves
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- Bicast leather – a form of genuine leather coated with a plastic finish
- Bonded leather – a material made by blending scrap leather fibers with a plastic binder
- Microfiber – a material made with synthetic fibers thinner than natural silk; can be used for making synthetic suedes, like Ultrasuede
- Claire Shaeffer (10 November 2003). Sew Any Fabric: A Quick Reference to Fabrics from A to Z. Krause Publications Craft. p. 37. ISBN 1-4402-2033-6.
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- Oskar, Zieba (5 July 2017). "Cork Leather – The Best Alternative to Animal Leather?". Blackwood Blog. Archived from the original on 3 August 2017. Retrieved 3 August 2017.
- "Microfiber leather supplier". WINIW. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
- The Lorica "concept": Lorica Sud
- "What is MB-Tex Seat Upholstery? - MB-Tex vs. Leather". www.loebermotors.com. Retrieved 7 April 2018.
- Faux Real: Genuine Leather and 200 Years of Inspired Fakes, by Robert Kanigel. Joseph Henry Press, 2007.