Water-based Polyurethane (PU) Is An Eco Friendly Alternative To Leather

Water-based Polyurethane (PU) Is An Eco Friendly Alternative To Leather

James&Co womens' outerwear is tailored in fabrics which are both sustainable and cruelty-free vegan. 2018 was a significant year when we moved from chemicals-based vegan leather to water-based fabric.

Eco friendly alternative to leather  - polyurethane or PU

When we started business in 2012, the only alternative to real leather for womens jackets and coats was 100% synthetic leather generically referred to as polyurethane or ‘PU’. The polyurethane vegan leather fabric is very similar in appearance and texture to natural leather but it does not contain any animal products. While it is preferable to real leather, and its manufacture needs to comply with standards of the EU and other countries, polyurethane is not yet a fabric that can can be called sustainable or eco-friendly.

The PU fabric for faux/vegan leather is made by the coating a synthetic base fabric (such as polyester or nylon) with a chemical compound paste and then drying it.  The polyurethane coating is applied to a single side of the base fabric and it makes the fabric water resistant, light weight and flexible.

In some sense, the more correct term is ‘PU coated fabric’ because the actual fabric component is the underlying synthetic polyester or nylon.

However, it is not an environmentally friendly paste or process. This is mainly because the coating paste has very high levels of the toxic solvent DMF (dimethyl formamide). When emitted during traditional PU processing, the solvent eventually becomes greenhouse gas. 

Fortunately since 2012 there have been technological innovations leading to the development of alternative leather fabrics eliminating DMF and which are sustainable and eco-friendly.  One of these innovations is water-based PU (WBPU) and it is the fabric which James&Co has switched to. 

link to eco friendly alternative to leather jacket

Ellie biker jacket tailored in eco friendly alternative to leather

Vegan leather fabric made without chemicals - 'eco friendly alternative leather'

In 2018 James&Co was introduced to an artificial leather fabric that was developed switching from DMF-based polyurethane production to a water-based process (WBPU). In WBPU, water is the medium used to create foamed polyurethane dispersions as the coating material for the underlying fabric, so it's eco-friendly and harmless to the human body. 

The WBPU coating material is environmentally-friendly. It does not contain any toxic chemicals and is non-flammable.

The fabric is both soft and breathable, and suitable for lightweight products such as womens outerwear.

According to our manufacturer of the new fabrics which is a China technology textile company 'Our product uses essentially different materials & technology from traditional PU on market now, regarding the origin of the process. It simulates the interior structure of real leather by foaming technology and has a very good air permeability with no need to punch by laser, and very soft touch feeling. Therefore, it’s proved soft enough to be used in jackets, coats etc'.

We are the first business to buy this eco friendly alternative leather fabric for apparel and the jackets made with it are indeed soft and look great.   

Sale Offers For Our Retail Partners

James&Co is wholesale only. And for our retail partners we have these great offers:

20% off regular wholesale price on selected outerwear, including sustainable leather bikers and vegan velvet trench coat

20% of regular wholesale price for pre-sale Ellie biker jacket.


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.