Best leather alternatives for furniture

Best Leather Alternatives For Furniture

Check out some of the innovative leather alternatives being developed to make furniture

Best leather alternatives for furniture

Leather has long been seen as a luxury material. It makes sense, as leather ages well, is incredibly durable, and looks great in most rooms. However, there are plenty of people who aren’t comfortable using leather due to the fact that it is an animal product.

Plenty of substitutes for leather furniture and alternative materials have been developed and improved in recent years, partially driven by the fashion industry.

So, what are the best vegan leather alternatives for furniture?

Among the best vegan leather alternatives for furniture include “Piñatex” leather made out of pineapple leaves and MuSkin mushroom leather made from fungus, which looks more like suede. There are also fruit-skin-based leathers that look great but can be harder to find in large sizes.

There are many more options for those who don’t want to use leather with animal origins. We explore the mainstream choices in detail below to show you which might be best for your furniture needs.

What is vegan leather?

Vegan leathers are alternatives for traditional leather that do not involve any animal products. They provide us with sustainable leather alternatives, both for smaller products like watches and alternatives for leather shoes.

The materials are also great for bigger products as people look for the best alternatives to leather sofas and chairs, as people want to move away from reliance on any animal product.

As there isn’t one unified method of making vegan leather, there are lots of alternatives, including plant leathers, made from leaves or other parts of plants, trees, and even fruits.

Mushroom leather

There are multiple types of mushroom-based alternatives, including MuSkin mushroom leather. Fungus can fix so many of life’s issues!

MuSkin is made out of Phellinus Ellipsoideus, which is a parasitic fungus that grows naturally on trees in some tropical environments. It is treated and tanned in a really similar method to tanning leather.

The end result is a mushroom leather material, which is suitable for use on furniture, but it has more of a suede-like feel to it. It is also very absorbent, so you don’t want to get it wet.

MyCoWorks, another mushroom leather producer, has created a similar product, and there are other mushroom “leather” companies developing materials for use in furniture production.

Pineapple leather 

Pineapple leather is one of the best-known alternatives for leather. “Piñatex” leather has been one of the industry-leading innovations from a company called Ananas Anam. Hugo Boss has even used the material to make an alternative to leather shoes.

Piñatex leather is made out of the fibres extracted from pineapple leaves. These would otherwise be wasted. They are dried, de-gummed, and the pectin is removed, turning them into a softer fabric that feels a bit like cotton. 

The fibres are then turned into a mesh by using thousands of needles to pierce the fibres using a special machine. This gives the basis of the leather, but it is then sent to Spain where it is processed further using a special curing process to turn it into the finished product.

Cactus leather 

Cactuses grow abundantly across Mexico and elsewhere in hot climates, and a company called Desserto has now created a leather alternative out of the plant. In 2019 in the International Leathers Fair Lineapelle, the material debuted with some acclaim.

It’s made from the nopal cactus leaves. This is a sustainable plant species, and only the mature leaves are harvested, meaning that in 6-8 months’ time the company has another fresh harvest ready to turn into their innovative leather alternative. 

The leather produced looks indistinguishable from the real thing, at least from a distance. This has already been used in a lot of fashion including in collaboration with H&M.

Studies have shown this to be a safe alternative to synthetic leathers. It doesn’t use any toxic chemicals, formaldehyde or PVC in the production. The patented production method makes a really strong and durable option that is also simple to maintain and clean.

While this isn’t as mainstream as some other alternatives, there is no denying that it is one of the best-looking sustainable leather alternatives.

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Corn leather 

Corn leather is another innovation that has seen an impressive alternative enter the market. It is made by Veja, an Italian company.

It is semi-natural, so it isn’t made totally out of natural materials, as polyurethane is added to the corn to turn it into a canvas, which can be tanned and treated like leather.

50% of the corn leather is made from corn waste, which does mean a sustainable product, with a waste byproduct getting used effectively. 

It’s even tougher than animal hide, but it is not totally biodegradable so there are environmental downsides, too. At this time it is mainly used for smaller applications like purses and bags, but has the potential to be used as an alternative for leather sofas or chairs.

Apple leather

Apple leather, also known as AppleSkin vegan leather, is another invention from an Italian company.

The manufacturing process is similar to the way corn leather is made, as waste products from apples (pomace and peel) are mixed with polyurethane and then coated onto a canvas, usually made out of cotton.

This gives a very durable end product, great for use in place of leather. Like corn leather, though, it isn’t totally biodegradable or natural. Also, it is rare to find this material used for larger applications such as furniture, though there are some examples, and surely more to follow.

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Mango leather

This vegan leather made from mangoes is produced in the Netherlands by Fruitleather Rotterdam, and while their process is a secret, it results in a flexible yet durable material akin to leather.

It also uses surplus mangoes that would otherwise be wasted, often purchased from markets in the Netherlands. They’re turned into a pulp and dried before being coloured, ready for the customer.

The founders describe their process as “the waste of the fruit industry used to radically change the world of the polluting leather industry.”

If you make your own furniture, you can buy the material straight from the manufacturer. There is a choice of colours and sizes to order directly from the company, who don’t currently work with any big distributors.

Palm leather

Palm leather is also made in The Netherlands. Made by Dutch designer Tjeerd Veenhoven, it uses leaves from a variety of palm grown in India, the Areca Betel Nut Palm. The trees shed over 80 million square meters worth of leaves every single year, and these can now be put into use.

The material made from these palm leaves is totally biodegradable. It’s been used to create single-use slippers for hotels to give away, and there are also rugs made out of the material.

Palm leather scores highly for sustainability, and though the looks are reminiscent of tree grain, they make a good alternative to cow leather. That said, it is quite rare to find any furniture made using this material yet, other than an awesome stool on the manufacturer’s website. 


All of the products above eliminate the use of any animal products in the production process, but some are harder to buy than others. Piñatex and MuSkin are more commonly found than palm leather and apple leather, but by contacting the manufacturers directly you can place an order for the material.

The materials have improved greatly in recent years, and it will be no surprise to see more sustainable leather alternatives used in furniture moving forward.