If there’s one thing about the fashion industry that completely annoys the shit out of me, it’s the dopey little names they keep coming up with to describe fake leather. The three that I’ve come across most frequently are “pleather,” “leatherette,” and, worst of all, “vegan leather” (and I’ll explain why I hate that phrase especially in a moment).
As a copywriter, I do understand the logic behind these nonsensical pseudonyms. “Vegan leather” sounds a lot more attractive than “plastic;” I think we can all agree on that. But creating a new name to describe a shitty, cheap medium is the fashion marketing equivalent of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s putting lipstick on a pig. I could come up with another animal metaphor, but I think you understand my point.
These phrases were created to make an unattractive material sound luxurious (hence, more valuable) than it really is.
Of course, the truth is that regardless of what you call the material, it is still plastic—the same stuff our garbage bags are made out of. The stuff that melts in hot weather, cracks in cold weather, and, oh yeah, has become public enemy #1 in the eyes of today’s environmentalists.
But marine wildlife concerns aside, I have another problem with this “vegan leather” nonsense: now that “vegan leather” is the preferred name for plastic, it’s almost impossible to find genuine leather when you’re shopping for it online. (Hooray for horrible keyword matching.)
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve been looking online for something made out of leather—jackets, shoes, handbags, wallets, you name it—and decided to abandon my effort because everything that came up for my search was “vegan.”
And yes, I know this is a first-world problem, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth addressing.
From a business perspective, I would say it’s actually a huge issue, because companies are costing themselves precious customers when they make their websites difficult to shop from.
I know I’m not the only customer who won’t settle for “vegan leather,” even when finding the real stuff seems impossible. When I’m on a website searching for real leather handbags, boots, etc., and I find myself digging through “vegan” products, most of the time, I abandon my search—even if I know the store whose site I’m shopping on does carry genuine leather products.
I only have so much time to spend sifting through items for sale online; if I can’t find what I’m looking for in a timely manner, then I just won’t make a purchase.
It’s 2019, people, let’s stop pretending that plastic is chic if you give it a cool enough name.
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