PU leather, or Polyurethane leather, is an artificial textile used in place of genuine leather in clothing and upholstery. PU leathers can be made from thermosoftening plastic polymers, or from a combination of plastics and genuine leather.
There is a strong opinion that 100% PU can be a convincing substitute for the real thing. But while genuine does require upkeep and maintenance to keep looking its best, this is also its strength. Over time, it will develop a unique and distinct patina, growing more distinguished and beautiful over years of continued use. Pure PU cannot imitate this natural process, and will not last for years the way well-kept leather does. In fact, pure PU has a comparatively short lifespan next to genuine leather, wearing out and cracking over time. While it might be vegan, given its shorter lifespan and how unlike leather it is not biodegradable. PU are generally considered to actually be a far less eco-friendly choice than genuine.
Another approach is bicast leathers, where natural by-products of leathermaking are combined with polyurethane plastics to create a hybrid of organic and artificial leathers. Given that they contain animal products, bicast leathers cannot be considered vegan, but by finding a creative solution to repurpose otherwise unused products, they make the leather manufacturing process even more efficient. On the whole, PU and bicast leathers are cheaper to make than genuine, but they are unlikely to last as long as genuine products, and are unable to replicate the natural transformation leather products undergo over years of use.
When it’s time to select leather goods for yourself, always be sure to always check the label. You also need to be aware of the type of material the goods are made from.