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In decades past, consumer demand for traditional leather made from cow hides was high, especially when it came to footwear (Virtually everyone expected their dress shoes to be made from real leather.) But in recent years, many shoppers have become more aware of the environmental and ethical implications of wearing cowhide leather and started to reject the material.

This shift in consumer attitudes has led countless brands to introduce shoes made from materials that don’t come from animals, such as plastic, mushroomspineapple, microfiber, and canvas. Moreover, the quality of imitation leather has increased to the point that most consumers can’t even tell it isn’t the real thing.

According to Jocelyn Thornton, senior vice president of creative services at a fashion and retail advisory firm called Doneger Group, younger consumers are at the forefront of the trend of ditching real leather. As Thornton reportedly explained, in the modern day, people in this age group prefer more casual shoes like sneakers over dress shoes, thus naturally lowering their demand for leather.

Plus, Thornton added, younger buyers are now seeking out footwear brands with a “feel-good story” behind their production methods, suggesting a desire for responsibly-made shoes among these consumers. “They’re not necessarily seeking out synthetics. They’re just looking for things that are better for the environment, better for the future,” Thornton reportedly said.

Unsurprisingly, the rise of stylish leather alternatives has significantly lowered demand for genuine leather. The 2014 drought which greatly decreased the number of cattle that could be raised and, in turn, made the price of leather skyrocket, has also played into the reduction of the leather market. As Ken Maxfield, president of hide-market publication The Maxfield Report, reportedly explained, this drought forced companies to find ways of reducing the amount of leather used in their products. Four years after the fact, demand for the cow-sourced material still hasn’t returned to previous levels.

In 2016, leather shoe sales dropped by 12 percent whereas athletic footwear sales saw a 14.3 percent increase, according to Statista, a market research company based in Hamburg. As these statistics clearly demonstrate, the leather industry is being seriously endangered by the steadily rising popularity of vegan alternatives.

We’re thrilled to hear that so many consumers are changing their buying habits for the sake of adorable cows and our planet, and we encourage you to make an effort to stay away from real leather goods if you don’t already do so!

Image Source: Pixabay

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Denise Baudin
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