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The global faux leather market will be worth a staggering $85 billion within the next decade, according to a report by business consulting firm Grand View Research [GVR].
The footwear sector is a key factor of the growing trend – paired with the lower cost of producing animal-free goods (estimated by the report at one third of the cost of leather).
The research says: “Emerging markets such as China, India, Brazil, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are expected to play a major role in the growing demand. Rising demand from the footwear industry in these markets is expected to play a crucial role over the forecast period.
“The global demand has seen a paradigm shift due to rising application across furnishing, automotive, clothing, bags and others. Footwear emerged as the largest application segment and accounted for over 34 per cent of the total market revenue in 2015.
“Its application is getting nearer to genuine leather and is replacing its applications in handbags, briefcases, car furnishings and clothing at a pacing rate.
“Manufacturers are looking towards increasing their production capacity as the cost of production is low. The market is fragmented and it is dominated by few players. This has resulted in high entry barriers as these manufacturers are focusing on forward and backward integration across the value chain in order to improve their efficiency.”
The study claims that rising income and economic growth has fuelled the demand in footwear segment. In addition, the market will also continue to grow led by variations occurring in climatic conditions of each country, which need different types of footwear. The ‘athleisure trend’ of incorporating athletic shoes in daily lifestyle is also expected to propel the demand in footwear application segment.
It said: “The price of a faux leather footwear is three times cheaper than footwear made up from animal hide, which enables large volume purchases, particularly from middle income class groups. Also these foot wears have long durability and are offered in several designs.”
Faux leather is also used in vehicles including cars, motorcycles and buses among others – especially in more eco-friendly cars like Tesla, which offers a vegan interior. The study’s authors put this down to the material’s physical properties, saying the fabric is ‘lighter’ than animal hide.
They said: “High elasticity enables comfort and develops resistance against hot and cold temperatures, alcohol and water. It also increases the durability and eases the maintenance.
“Polyurethane is majorly used in automotive as it is softer and does not give a sticky feel like an animal skin provides. Thus, owing to these advantages several OEM manufacturers prefer it over real leather for applications in this segment.”
Technological advances in the quality of the faux leather materials is also playing a part in the sector’s growth: “As textile technology is evolving consumer are preferring vegan fashion, which refers to adopting non-leather products.
“Synthetic leather is the most suitable alternative as it is cheaper and is available in several designs & colours. PU is also used in clothing where it is used to create spandex and to add buoyancy to competitive swimsuits.”
The ethical angle also has a role to play in the fabric’s popularity, with the report claiming: “North America and Europe are expected to observe moderate growth owing to rising trend of adopting cruelty-free products.
“Moreover, animal right laws in several countries have become a major hurdle for natural leather manufacturers. Growing awareness among consumers regarding animal killings mainly owing to the programs run by organizations such as PETA, PAWS, WWF and others has played a major role in increasing demand for other alternatives.
“Furthermore, the supply demand gap in the natural leather industry is another major factor which is responsible for manufacturers opting for artificial alternatives.”
Manufacturers are currently seeking more environmentally-friendly alternative to classic faux leather fabrics. The launch of Pinatex, which is derived from pineapples, is thought to be a major game-changer when it comes to sustainable fabrics.