We’re committed to crafting our wallets and card holders in the most sustainable way possible. Apple leather (a vegan bio-based leather) is one of the main materials we use in the Oliver Co. collection because of its premium finish, aesthetic similarities to ‘real’ leather and environmental benefits over its alternatives.
One of the most common questions we get asked is “how durable is the vegan leather?”.
We’re going to take a look at how our apple leather performs versus animal leather, digging into the advantages and challenges associated with both materials.
Vegan leather is often considered less durable than ‘real’ leather. However this is not always the case, and not all materials are made equally. A cheap leather will almost certainly degrade quicker than a high quality PU (vegan) leather.
The question comes down to quality and whether the material chosen is fit for purpose.
Tensile strength is a measure of a material's resistance to breaking under tension. This is an important factor for wallets and accessories that, when filled with cards, will have tension applied.
What is the tensile strength of ‘real’ leather?
High quality leather undoubtedly has excellent tensile strength. If you were to purchase a top grain (1st or A grade quality) leather accessory you can expect the product to last a very long time when used correctly.
Equally it is important to understand that lower quality leathers (often labelled genuine leather or bonded leather) can have poor tensile strength as they are made from cheaper leather cuts or from recycled leather bonded together. These can fail quickly and are often combined with poor workmanship and low quality hardware.
If a company website or product label doesn’t spell out the type of leather being used, then you are very likely to be buying a poor quality leather.
What is the tensile strength of our vegan apple leather?
In accordance with ISO 1421:2000 tensile testing, the apple leather used in our main collection has a tensile strength of 500 - 700N/5cm
That is, that 500-700 N of force is applied to a 5cm testing sample before it failed.
To give context to this, the minimum requirement for car interiors is 200N/5cm. This is why Volkswagen recently announced that they were to use the same apple leather that we use in the upholstery of their new electric cars.
As with natural leather, there are also some very low quality vegan leathers in the market that have low tensile strength. This is generally reflected in the price of the product and how/where the product was made.
What makes apple leather tensile strength so high?
Apple leather is made using 50% PU and 50% apple waste, coated onto a cotton/polyester based canvas. The fabric structure combined with the quality of each of the materials contributes to the overall durability of the product.
The apple waste used is first dried and then grinded into a fine powder. The powder is mixed with a high quality PU and applied to a durable tear-resistant cotton/polyester fabric. The rolls are then heated to fuse the fabric's elements together, creating a weather resistant and durable fabric compound.
Abrasion resistance is the ability of a surface to resist being worn away by rubbing or friction. This is a very important property for accessories that are often taken in and out of pockets or placed in a bag where they rub up against other objects.
The way leather reacts to abrasion is very different to that of a vegan leather. Leather’s appearance will often change with time and gain a ‘patina’. This change in appearance is to some people’s taste, however others like their product to remain looking the same as it did the day they bought them. In the case of apple leather, that is exactly what you can expect as it has an incredibly high abrasion resistance.
How does apple leather perform in an abrasion test?
The Martindale test is used to measure apple leather's resistance to abrasion. It gives an indication of how well the material will withstand natural wear by rubbing it against a standard abrasive surface with a specified force.
In the test, apple leather scored a rating of 50,000. To give this some context, the national German textile institute specifies a minimum requirement for various applications of interiors:
- Private use: 10,000 - 15,000
- Office use: 25,000-35,000
- Public transport: 30,000 - 40,000
As you can tell, our apple leather will therefore require a lot of use before it shows any signs of ageing on its surface. A key quality if you want your wallet looking as good as the day you bought it.
What else adds to product durability?
The upper fabrics used in accessories are important, however the lining, stitching, glues, finishing and craftsmanship, all contribute to product durability.
At Oliver Co. we have addressed each of these meticulously, sampling and testing each aspect and finding the very best suppliers on the market to ensure the quality isn’t let down in any area.
You’ll notice that each of our products have a hand painted edge coat. The edge of a wallet undergoes a lot of wear during use and is often a weak point. It is important that a good coverage of coating is applied and has excellent adhesion to the materials. We've worked closely with our factory to test a variety of edge coats and find the perfect one for our collection. Each product is given at least 3 layers of paint to maximise durability and add to the overall aesthetic of the wallet.
Do the linings add to durability too?
The lining of a wallet has a very important role in the overall durability of the product. Although this wasn’t our area of expertise when we first began designing the Oliver Co. range, through working with some of the best suppliers on the market, we have come to understand the key differences in fabrics and their effects on performance.
The plain weave is the simplest type of weave, whereby the threads are woven together one after the other. It’s very strong due to the threads constantly crossing over each other. This weave works perfectly with our slim cardholder and, coupled with the fact that it's made from the finest organic cotton, creates in an incredibly long-lasting product.
The Oxford weave is a variation of the plain weave. Here, two threads simply run parallel; two horizontal weft threads cross over two vertical warp threads. We use this type of weave to add durability whilst also giving the product more structure.
Due to its toughness and longevity, this weave is the most commonly used for denim, however can also be applied to finer yarns. The yarns are packed tightly together making for a soft, durable lining with luxurious finish and feel. We apply this type of weave with the recycled polyester and cupro used on our compact wallet.
With each fabric type, thread count and weight also affect performance, and must be balanced with the overall functionality. This can only be achieved through continuous testing; a key aspect of our product development that ensures we constantly improve on our existing designs.
Sustainability should mean Longevity
Overall we believe that in order for a product to be sustainable, it needs to be fit for purpose and last. We are changing what it means to be a vegan brand and ensuring the quality and durability is the same as what you’d expect from the very best accessories on the market. It’s why we’re proud to offer a two year guarantee on all Oliver Co. products.
You can check out our Compact Wallet, Slim Cardholder and Passport Holder, that all use our signature apple leather. You can also find out more about our apple leather, other fabrics and commitment to sustainability here.