Good and Bad upholstery faux leather-fabric – what’s the difference?

Red faux leather upholstery on chair
REd faux leather on modernist chair
REd faux leather on modernist chair

We are sometimes casually reminded that “you pay for what you get”. Buying cheaper goods obviously encounters a lower cost on day 1 but as time passes the costs of cheaper products can raise their ugly head. Surely fabric is fabric and immune from this?

Sorry, no. Fabrics vary tremendously in quality and Faux Leather is no exception. Faux leathers are synthetic and can be manufactured following several processes. Good faux leather will be influenced by:

  • excellent quality raw materials,
  • ensuring the precise drying time for the paste to bond together the ‘layers’
  • Using the correct temperature.

Shoddily or speedily trying to manage these factors necessarily leads to a bad product. The product might look the same as another but the truth will out as the fabric starts to be used in earnest.

Differing kinds of upholstery Faux Leather will then be subject to treatments to make them suitable to the intended end use. So, for example, some have chemical stabilizers to reduce ‘fading’. If an insufficient concentration and purity of stabilizer is used then UV performance will degrade.
The quantity of material used in each layer too plays a very significant factor in cost and quality as the industry reference, Coated Textiles: Principles and Applications, notes;

Upholstery-grade cloth has a thick foam layer ranging from 360 to 480 grams per meter squared, a top layer of 180 to 360 grams per meter squared.

Cheaper faux leathers fail to meet these tolerances.

Faux leather needs the correct certification for the intended end-use. Otherwise the fabric can be flammable. A major UK retail furniture vendor was recently blasted for using cheaper, incorrectly treated faux leather upholstery fabric.

The cost of rectifying this poor quality is significant. Transport and re-upholstery costs are huge. Is it worth the risk to you as a designer or specifier?

With Faux Leather Upholstery Fabric, you really do pay for what you get.

Faux Leather Upholstery Fabrics

Off- white faux leather upholstery

KOTHEA Faux Leather Upholstery Fabrics

Off- white faux leather upholstery
Off- white faux leather upholstery

KOTHEA is the UK’s supplier of choice for high-end quality faux leather upholstery fabrics for  commercial and residential applications, offering an extensive colour palette, great design and cut lengths.

Performance Fabric For Cleaning – Our faux leather upholstery fabrics are resistant to many of life’s daily hazards. Whilst we might not be able to defend against the rigours of a cat’s claws we can fight off the most intense family usage in residential developments as well as meeting the needs of hotels and other public spaces.

Grains and texture– We have grain and luster mimicking differing hide ‘patterns’, as well as the soft and supple feel like natural (treated) leather.

Superior Properties – We research the industry technical requirements fro upholstery and then strive to exceed them. Our contract grade faux leathers upholstery fabrics have some of the very highest Martindale Rub test results in the UK (We have not seen higher performance figures from our competitors)

Colours and Palettes in Our Collections – We have an extensive palette of muted neutrals in our upholstery faux leather fabrics, whilst also recognising more recent tonal trends in many contract applications as well as some residential applications we have a significant number of striking colours and tones.

Marine– We have exceptionally high performance characteristics even for demanding marine environments for faux leather upholstery fabrics.

Perfect for

  • Hotels
  • Cruise Liners
  • Yachts
  • Hospitality
  • Private / Residential
  • Leisure
  • Bars
  • Club Houses

Use for

  • Interior Seating
  • Wallcovering / Wall panels
  • Headboards
  • Bed Bases

Faux Leather Upholstery Fabrics

Black Faux Leather Upholstery
Click Image To Request Samples

KOTHEA are one of the UK’s leading Faux Leather suppliers to the Interior Design and Architectural sector. Our products in this sphere have high performance, commercial and residential characteristics – fantastic durability and adherence to appropriate fire retardancy standards.

We have several faux leather collections – they are aimed specifically for upholstery but are often also used on walls, doors, sometimes for curtains and cocktail bar fronts and stools.

Most of the wide range of colours we stock are available in several different finishes. The finishes range from a ‘flat’ vinyl to a heavy, but naturally, textured leather finish. In between these extremes, there are leather textures with differing degrees of depths of textures.

Click HERE To Request Samples.

The ‘feel’ of the collections vary. Some are very like leather to the touch, whilst others are more vinyl. Typically more vinyl-type finishes have highly superior cleaning and light fastness properties.

Please note that these faux leathers are specifically targetted towards interiors. They are not thin, low-grade fashion faux leather.

We also have several ranges of faux animal skins, mimicking skins such as crocodile and ostrich. These are niche products and are only available by the roll.

Faux Leather Martindale Test – What does it look like

Ever wondered what a Martindale rub test looks like?


We’ve already shown a video of this <here> however of some additional interest might be the following faux leather samples that recently came back to us from the Martindale testing laboratory.

Faux Leather After Martindale Rub Test
Faux Leather After Martindale Rub Test


So the link (above) shows you the machine in action and the image above shows you the circular cuttings taken of the fabric that have been rubbed, in this case, 200,000 times. As you can see this excellent performance faux leather of ours lasted WELL above the industry ‘norm’ of 100,000.

Leatherettes & Fine Faux Leather – More Collections

Leather (Photo credit: orebokech)

Faux Leathers are otherwise knows as leatherette, fake leather and artificial leather. We have a short article on their many benefits for interior designer <here>.

KOTHEA® are the UK’s leading producer of fine, performance faux leathers for the contract market.

We have some of the very highest performance faux leather fabrics with Martindale Rub Test results in excess of 200,000…some of the highest in Europe. You can specify this quality of product knowing that you can totally trust its abrasion resistance characteristics.

We have a broad range of collections covering the varied environmental needs of hospitality (spas, restaurants, hotels), marine (yachts), office and household (apartment, villa) usage. Our technical innovation gives the best fabrics and our designers the best patterns and extensive colour palettes.

Related articles

What is faux leather? When should an interior designer use it?

English: Leather tanning, Fes, Morocco Françai...
English: Leather tanning, Fes, Morocco Français : Tannage du cuir, Fès, Maroc (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Faux leather looks like leather. It is a fabric made out of materials other than leather. Faux is the French for ‘fake’. So it is fake leather. It is cheaper than natural leather and much easier to work with in many cases. As well as a fabric for interiors it is used in many industries: it could be in your car or could make the case covering your iPAD. In the interior design world you would use it for: upholstery and wall-covering but also to cover, doors, table-tops, bar stools, bars, etc.

Types of Faux Leather

There are two main chemical types of faux leather:  polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane (PU). Both types are used in making clothing, upholstery, and product covers; typically KOTHEA use PVC For our faux leathers. We are able to obtain fine faux leathers with amazing properties as a fabric including extremely high Martindale Rub test scores in excess of 200,000 and extremely accurate animal hide pattern copies.

Compared to Real Leather

Sometimes you can’t tell the difference unless you know what to look for. Most obviously natural leather will not have any kind of repeatable pattern. Faux leather will have a degree of ‘repeat’ but might be sufficiently subtle that you do not notice it. Natural leather has visible and irregular pores and rough edges.

Natural leather tends to have a smoother feel whereas some faux leather may well feel like plastic BUT other faux leathers will feel very similar to the natural leather. The ‘smell’ may be chemically but this could be either the chemicals that have been used to treat the natural leather or the chemicals in the faux leather. A VERY chemically smell that sticks to your hand is probably a faux leather – although most faux leathers will not have this property.

Pros and Cons

Faux leather can generally be made to have very good consistency of colour across batches and in theory can be made to any required colour (in sufficient quantity). Similarly texture and pattern can be varied and/or reproduced much more easily than with a natural product.

Care and maintenance of faux leather is greatly superior to natural leather which requires conditioning. Faux leather can be bought by the metre whereas natural leather must necessarily be bought by ‘the hide’ and hence has join, length and width constraints not necessarily found in the faux alternative. Faux leather generally has superior light fastness and durability.

The animal lover will appreciate that faux leather does not require animals to die. But then again many animals die each year to support the meat industry and leather is an abundant by-product that, if used, you might argue avoids waste. KOTHEA do not sell natural leather.

When should I specify FAUX LEATHER for interior design?

There is certainly a kudos surrounding natural leather. It IS viewed a s a more desirable product. However I’m really not sure why; especially when you look at it logically.

Faux leather is much easier to work with; it is much better suited for any kind of long term interior design use – looking at durability and care & maintenance; it can look and feel the same as natural leather. It is made of chemicals but chemicals (often environmentally damaging ones) are used in the natural leather treatment process.

Whilst I might buy natural leather shoes I would only specify faux leather in a contract interior design situation and would probably also specify faux leather in my house with the possible exception of a statement sofa.

Related articles

Fine Faux Leather Upholstery – New Contract Fabrics With High Abrasion Martindale

Fine Faux Leather Blue Upholstery Contract UsageUpholstery Faux Leathers are one of our many collections being revamped in 2013. We have introduced a new faux leather with a Martindale Rub test score exceeding 200,000. This is one of the highest available in the UK.

It still looks great and also has the added comfort factor of the interior designer knowing that it can be a worry-free product to spec for even demanding contract environments. Providing that it is correctly upholstered and specified it will withstand very significant amounts of abrasion.

Designer Fabrics & Luxury Wallcoverings 2012 – Latest Collections of Faux Leather & Raffia

British Institute of Interior Design

Interior Design 101. Back to basics.

Minimally patterned, plain and simple patterns matter when you choose designer fabrics for your interior design scheme. It’s not just the ‘important’ stuff you have to worry about; it’s all the stuff.

Design after design. Pattern after pattern. Squashed into corners. Covered ceilings. Hung on walls. Something here, something there… OK you might have certain pieces that take centre stage in your grand design but you also have to set the stage with the backdrops, the reflected light, the subtle blend of auxiliary textures.

To a certain degree, if you must, you can compromise on the backdrops. It’s great having a silk panelled wall, relatively inexpensive and good to the touch. Not so good when it fades at differing rates in the exposed sun-lit areas of the room.

So when you choose designer fabrics yes you should be wowed by the colours, designs and textures BUT you should also be wowed and interested in the technical properties. Your clients might initially thank you for a great looking job. They won’t thank you if it starts to fall apart. they may well have already paid you at that point (so you’re OK right?) but will you then get recommended to their friends…probably not. It is so, so easy to make this kind of mistake.

So try faux silk rather than silk. It looks and feels pretty much the same but can be excellent in terms of non-fading.

So try faux leather. A wide variety of finishes and qualities are available and many are great for wall covering (!) as well as upholstery. Great to cover chairs or a bar in a restaurant but also in your kitchen as they can relatively easily be cared for and cleaned. If you love leather you might find that your upholsterer might not love that choice as you are working with hides of varying sizes, whereas with faux leather you are working with a fabric available by the metre.

Click for faux leather or faux silk designer fabric samples.

Faux Leather in Blue

Fine Faux Leather is available from KOTHEA in several collections reflecting varying degrees of technical properties such as thickness, flame retardancy and abrasion resistance (Martindale, Wyzenbeek). Our collections are typically used for contract applications in the hospitality and marine industries.

Here are  some of the blue colourways that are available, click an image to view a slideshow

Chevron 66-501-11 Tundra

Chevron 66-501-11 Tundra by KOTHEA
Chevron 66-501-11 Tundra, a photo by KOTHEA on Flickr.

We all love wallpaper but surely, just for at least one room, it’s time to move into 2011; or 2012 for that matter. Remember that wallcoverings come in many foms not just paper. KOTHEA are now releasing 7 Raffia Wallcovering Designs each in a range of colourways.

KOTHEA’s ‘Chevron’ design is a classic weave of natural cellulose with an approximate 15cm horizontal pattern repeat. At 106cm wide each standard roll is 36m long with a cut-length service available.

Via Flickr:
We all love wallpaper but surely, just for at least one room, it’s time to move into 2011; or 2012 for that matter. Remember that wallcoverings come in many foms not just paper. KOTHEA are now releasing 7 Raffia Wallcovering Designs each in a range of colourways.

KOTHEA’s ‘Chevron’ design is a classic weave of natural cellulose with an approximate 15cm horizontal pattern repeat. At 106cm wide each standard roll is 36m long with a cut-length service available.