I was gifted this product for my birthday because it appeared to be a sustainable and vegan friendly alternative to a real leather jacket, but I’m not convinced it is as sustainable as my gift giver believed when purchasing it. I realize now that just because vegan friendly products may correlate with sustainability but it does not imply sustainability.
I recommend to consumers that they try to buy used jackets because even though the fake leather is better for the planet, the lack of durability and thus the wearable lifetime of the product should be considered. Another viable option would be researching for faux leathers that use a material that biodegrades faster than polyurethane such as leaf leather. I recommend to the company that they start becoming much more transparent regarding their production and distribution, social justice and equity aspects, and materials of their products. Anthropologie should highly consider creating a sustainable product section where they consider using vegan materials without plastics. I truthfully think this would align with the atmosphere and intent behind Anthropologie even more successfully than their current products. With a higher end market, I also suspect these changes would go over quite well.
The main feature of this jacket is that is is made of faux leather compared to real leather. This suggests that the jacket is made vegan friendly which has many sustainable attributes associated with it. It is known that the cattle industry in Brazil largely contributes to greenhouse gas emissions as well as deforestation. Thus, not using real leather appears as a solid design choice towards a sustainably made jacket. The Environmental Profit and Loss sustainability report from 2018 says that “the impact of vegan-leather production can be up to a third lower than real leather.”
However, the key word here is “can” because not all faux leather is the same. The website is not clear about materials, but the interior tag of the jacket says “shell 100% polyester, coating 100% polyurethane, lining 100% polyester." The coating material polyurethane, abbreviated PU, is made from plastic. Realistically, “polyurethane faux leathers do decompose, but they take 500 years to do so” where real leather takes only between 25-50 years. This makes me concerned for our oceans which are already so heavily polluted by plastics. The other material that they make transparent is polyester. “Polyester is a plastic-like material made from coal, oil, and water.” Additionally, it creates large carbon emissions and decomposes into micro-plastics that can harm our waterways. Also, the durability of faux leather is significantly less than real leather which would imply that the wearability lifetime of the jacket may not be the most sustainable either. Ultimately, the two key components of this faux leather jacket, although vegan, are not sustainable enough. It is still a better alternative than real leather, but other materials like Piñatex, recycled rubber, and leaf leather would be much more sustainable options.
The Cradle to Gate Environmental Impact study used the Higgs Materials Sustainability Index to analyze the difference between real and fake leather as well as other fabrics. It was found that faux leather uses less water, contributes less to global warming, and notably much less to eutrophication. And as it is vegan friendly, the consumer can feel better about not contributing to animal cruelty as well. I greatly appreciate this aspect as I’ve been a vegetarian almost my entire life. It aligns well with my personal beliefs and I think that anyone could appreciate this factor of the coat. I was disappointed by the marketing on the website though - the vegan aspect isn’t explicitly mentioned and is only implied by the aspect of faux leather. I feel that mentioning “vegan friendly” would be a highly calculated marketing decision. Nevertheless, making the product with fake leather compared to real leather proves more sustainable and ethical.
The company Anthropologie sells this jacket and other faux furs and faux leathers similar to it. I absolutely love shopping at Anthropologie, but after analyzing their entire website I feel as though Anthropologie barely even has sustainability on their mind. The closest thing they have that mentions sustainability is a small tab under their shoe section. This immediately concerned me and I really feel like their boho/hippie company brand is really missing a large mark here.
The tag on the jacket says that it is made in china. However, details are nonexistent and transparency is greatly lacking overall from the company. There is no mention of insuring that the workers in China are receiving livable wages or fair treatment. While I can’t assume that the conditions are poor, I also cannot assume that they are sufficient. Furthermore, the lack of information proves highly suspicious and I urge the customer to proceed with caution and the company to begin some transparency initiatives.