Faux (or fake) Leather offers a great alterantive to leather. With Martindale rubs of over 100,000 this is a very safe choice for high use contract areas. It’s usually made of a pure cotton basecloth with a poly-cotton visible coating. There are many other animal skins that are mimiced in the same way and in many cases the finishes are convincing.
But why not just use leather?
Much leather production has now moved away from the West to areas with less stringent environmental laws and lower wage rates. This is where the problem lies.
Chromium based compounds are used in the tanning and curing process of real leather. They are thought to be carcinogenic as, in some European tanning factories, cancer rates were found to be up to 50% higher in workers than in the population as a whole. Furthermore there were higher incidences of Leukemia in children living in areas near the tanneries. Environmental problems are exacerbated by the siting of factories next to rivers; the significant amounts of discharge that are produced are fed into the water courses and then dispersed over wide areas. In more lowly regulated economies it is not unreasonable to believe that the situation is probably worse.
Moving towards a better leather requires that chromium use is stopped completely and that the water used in production is cleaned and re-used in the factory. Any tanins and dyes uses would preferably be plant based.
Food for thought: If you wear leather clothing on sweaty skin then chromium residues in the leather can rub off and enter the skin.
KOTHEA had two recent projects where we had to adhere Faux Leather vertically. This poses a more serious challenge than paper-based wall coverings due to both the weight of the fabric (nearly 1kg per linear metre) and the wear and tear when adhered to a door. Both installations were more involved than domestic ones as we had to consider firstly the use on a yacht in a marine environment and secondly the high levels of usage of a hotel.
So the adhesive needs to be strong.
A further set of issues to overcome are related to how the fabric might react to any chemicals in the adhesive. In both instances our fabric had a 100% cotton back coat with a vinyl mix visible layer. Superfically a conclusion could be drawn that most adhesives would be OK with the surfaces they are fastening to in these instances ie a natural wooden door and inert stone wall combined with the natural cotton back cloth. However the adhesive will almost certainly penetrate the back cloth. Becuase of this the use of a solvent based adhesive, such as Asceton, is most definately not recommended.
So the adhesive needs to be strong and water based.
After performing suitability tests in these instances we chose to use Mapei’sAdheselix VS45 . VS45 is an acrylic adhesive in water dispersion and has been used extensively by Mapei’s customers for PVC/foam wallcoverings and rubber flooring. An alternative of Adesilex G19 was also suggested for areas with more moisture but that was not necessary in these cases.
We’ve heard of upholstering chairs with different fabrics on different panels and having contrasting items standing out in otherwise relatively monochromatic schemes but we’d never taken the jump to mismatched dining chairs. Obvious when you think about it! You could probably be even more adventurous with colour and style than the image.
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.
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.