Fake leather, faux leather, pleather -- all describe the same material, which is made by coating a polyester base with a polymer coating such as polyurethane. The results often look and feel indistinguishable from real leather. Advances in technology have taken fake leather from the tacky Naugahyde of the 1970s to today's high-end faux cowhide used to create designer boots, bags and jackets by the likes of such designers as Tom Ford and Stella McCartney.
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Fake leather has several advantages over the real thing:
- Often less expensive
- Easier to sew
- Vegetarian and vegan friendly
Though you can find cheap fake leather clothes and shoes, they may look a bit cheesy -- more like vinyl than leather. Better products made with the faux stuff can cost almost as much as the real thing, and with good reason -- it's hard to tell the difference. You can spot better products
- The grain -- the texture should be almost identical to that of real leather.
- The fit -- jackets, tops and pants won't be tight like they would be if made from plain old vinyl.
- The coloration -- stay away from faux brown leather because the gradations in color of the real thing are hard to fake. But good quality pleather in black, metallics and bright colors should look real.
A good fake leather jacket or killer pair of pleather boots will be an investment. If you provide your faux-leather fashions with the proper care, they'll last for years.
Wash and Wear
Some pleather is machine washable. Check the garment care label, or if you're buying pleather to sew yourself, inquire about its washability at the fabric store. If it can be washed, use warm water and a short, delicate cycle on the washing machine. You can also hand-wash it using warm water and a gentle delicate-garment detergent. Hang the garment or fabric up to dry immediately. Even if the label says washing is alright, it's best not to wash pleather very often. Its polymer finish can become dry and eventually crack or flake.
You can't throw most faux leather items -- jackets, handbags, boots -- in the washer, but they still may get soiled. When your pleather piece gets dirty, it's simple to clean and protect.
Brush off any dried dirt, such as mud or spilled food, using a towel or soft garment brush.
Fill a container with warm water and add a few drops of mild dish soap or delicate garment laundry detergent.
Dip a soft cloth in the water and wring it out. Wipe the dirt or spots from your garment, bag, shoes or boots. Let the piece or pieces air dry.
After you've cleaned it, protect your fake leather to keep the finish from drying out. You can protect and condition it by using PVC or vinyl conditioner, or a leather care cream or gel.
It's a good idea to wipe down your faux leather items with a conditioning product a few times a year to keep them soft and supple. This helps protect the fake leather from dirt, as well as preventing dehydrating and cracking.