Imitation Leather

Leather Terminolofy / Leather Types


Definition of Imitation Leather

Due to leather’s rarity, intensive manufacturing process, and high production cost, attempts are constantly being made to create materials that mimic it without incurring high costs.

One such material is imitation leather, which looks like leather, but it’s actually a textile base fabric concealed by two or more layers of synthetic polymers, and its surface appearance is embossed with a leather-like grain structure.

While imitation leather visually resembles real leather, it lacks the technical properties that make leather desirable and high quality, such as breathability, moisture permeability, and pliability.

There are multiple expressions of imitation leather:

  • Faux leather
  • Leatherette
  • Synthetic leather
  • Pleather
  • Man-made leather
  • Bonded leather

While expressions such as bonded leather are easy to spot, most are excellent forgeries that cannot be distinguished at first glance, even by some leather lovers.

Quite often, only experienced experts who interact with leather every day are able to easily differentiate real leather from leather imitation.

I outline a few ways to determine whether a material is made from real or fake leather below:

  • Grain pattern: Real leather has an irregular pattern since it’s a natural material that comes from an actual animal hide. Imitation leather is often embossed, hence has a more uniform grain structure.
  • Smell: Real leather has an unmistakable leather smell that can’t be manufactured, while leather imitation has a chemical, plastic-like smell.
  • Breathability: Even coated real leather portrays some level of breathability. Imitation leather is often made from plastic, which is unbreathable.
  • Aging: Real leather products age beautifully and develop a rich patina, a trademark of quality that only develops in top-grain leather. Imitation leather is made with cheap materials that easily damage after a few uses.

(Learn more in my article “6 Easy Ways to Spot a Real Full Grain Leather Belt”)

Example of Imitation Leather in a Sentence

"Imitation leather is an affordable way to acquire leather-like products such as wallets and handbags."

Synonyms: artificial leather

Related Terms for Imitation Leather

Written by Ryan Popoff

Ryan Popoff is the creative mind behind Popov Leather wallets, iPhone cases, belts, watch bands and journals since 2013. With a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts, my leatherworking journey began at home. I wanted to create a simple leather wallet that could fit into my front pocket and — to my delight — it was a hit with family and friends. Hopefully you love our honest, quality leather goods too! Read more