By Janet Kelly
THERE’S MUCH to admire about the buttery soft and supple feel—and durability of leather. I have a 20-year-old pair of lambskin leather pants to prove it. (Unfortunately, my husband gave them the thumbs-down, saying they looked too out-of-fashion to wear again.) I don’t remember how much I paid for them, but the starting price now for a pair of equal quality would probably be $800 to $1,000, a cost that includes the animal hide, the tanning process and labor (whether it’s hand-or-machine-made).
In recent years, “leather” has expanded to include synthetics, such as polyurethane (PU) and combinations with viscose and polyester, variously called faux, vegan and alternative leathers because they don’t require animal hides in the manufacture process. If a search on the Nordstrom site for leather pants is any indication of popularity, the number of faux leather pants on the market far exceeds those made with animal skin. Out of 112 results, 90 were synthetic.
In a bid for sustainability, brands like Agolde are using recycled leather—along with synthetics—in their designs. Swedish manufacturer Deadwood crafts its leather goods—without synthetics—out of recycled materials mainly sourced from furniture manufacturers and tanneries.
As the threat of climate change looms ever larger, designers are looking to the next generation of leather alternatives. When French luxury leather goods label Hermès announced last March that it will be using a leather-like material (made from mushroom roots) to reimagine a duffle bag, you can guarantee others will follow.
But in the meantime, here are our picks for pants, jackets, coats and skirts for this season, faux and not faux.
LEFT: The Denise Leather Blazer ($575, AS by DF), a blend of 60% recycled leather, 20% polyurethane and 20% polyester, is chic as hell with its tailored fit, shawl collar and covered buttons.
RIGHT: You may associate Apparis with its fab faux fur jackets and coats in vibrant shades of raspberry, hot pink and green. The label has expanded its faux offerings, including this fall’s double-breasted oversize khaki Trench Coat ($395, 24S) in a polyurethane and viscose blend. A terrific transition piece.
LEFT: Budapest-based womenswear brand Nanushka has been at the forefront in creating well-designed faux leather clothing. This patchwork Melody midi tulip skirt ($475) with exposed stitching is an elegant example.
RIGHT: Here’s a clever combination of faux leather —on the sleeves, collar, waistband and pockets—with a cotton body. If you’re constantly battling to artfully push up your sleeves, you won’t have to on this Renee Vegan Leather Jacket from Alice + Olivia—they’re already ruched. It’s $395 at Saks Fifth Avenue.
ABOVE: This oh-so-cute, cropped Mohave Top ($393, Wolf & Badger) is made by AS by DF, a brand that’s committed to being carbon neutral. If you are, too, know that it’s constructed from using leather scraps that would otherwise be waste and that their signature recycled leather collection uses “90% less water than traditional tanning methods.”
ABOVE: Have I mentioned that real leather, made from animal hides, like this lambskin high-rise pant from Lafayette New York 148 is spendy, as in $1,798 spendy from Neiman Marcus? The label is pricey to begin with, but you can bet on the quality and that you’ll have these trousers forever —or at least until your spouse/partner/girlfriend says “they look old-fashioned.”
LEFT: Known for his sculptural evening wear, Australian designer Toni Maticevski designed this 100% lambskin leather skirt with a classic pencil silhouette, draped waistline and asymmetrical patch pocket. It’s $920 at Moda Operandi, which advises dressing it down with lug-sole boots.
RIGHT: I was looking for slouchy, elastic-waist leather or faux leather pants and found a perfect pair —Run the World Pants—from BB Dakota by Steve Madden at a local shop. I tried on the medium, but the small would have fit far better if only I were able to try them on before they were snapped up by the woman who got there first. They’re sold out at many other places as well but still available at Zappo’s—for $79.95.
LEFT: If you love the luxe look of a leather coat but the prices not so much, Staud’s mid-length petrol-green Ashley Coat in vegan leather is a fresh spin on the traditional trench for $550. It also comes in periwinkle.
RIGHT: A splurge of a lambskin jacket from Cinq a Sept. The sleeves are already scrunched for you; the color is a yummy blue and the jeweled buttons steal the show. It’s $895 at Saks Fifth Avenue.
LEFT: When the occasion calls for chic yet casual—which in my book covers most of the time—this faux leather Button-Up Shirt ($473, limited size availability, Farfetch) from Ganni will be go-to staple for fall.
RIGHT: Using what many brands would consider trash, Stockholm-based Deadwood repurposes leather to create “fresh pieces with a vintage soul.” This slim-fitting, white recycled leather jacket with snap buttons and flap pockets is on sale at Urban Outfitters for $234.99, but only available in large. It also comes in black—for $420.
LEFT: Known primarily for denim, this season Agolde introduced a line of leather designs using pieces that would normally be discarded during production. Made of 50% recycled leather, 30% polyurethane, 10% viscose and 10% polyester, this pair of straight-leg pants with a high-cut waist is $300 at Moda Operandi.
RIGHT: I like the look of 3.1 Phillip Lim’s Sunburst Pleated Skirt in vegan leather (polyurethane). The olive color is a neutral, and the concealed back zip closure gives it a graceful silhouette. And it’s just the right thing to wear with an oversize sweater and boots this fall. It’s $550 at Saks Fifth Avenue.
MyLittleBird often includes links to products we write about. Our editorial choices are made independently; nonetheless, a purchase made through such a link can sometimes result in MyLittleBird receiving a commission on the sale. We are also an Amazon Associate.