Rising costs of genuine leather and increasing awareness about animal cruelty have paved the way for synthetic leather to take over. The trends can be seen in the clothing, footwear and upholstery segments, says a Wazir Advisors report.

Synthetic leather, also referred to as faux leather, has taken the industry by storm. Leather was always a luxurious choice for many, who wished to use it as a fabric for clothing, footwear or upholstery. However, the rising cost of genuine leather and the everincreasing awareness of animal cruelty norms has paved the way for the development of man-made leather. Synthetic leather is a more cost-effective and animal-friendly substitute, which has almost all the same qualities of genuine leather.

Over the years, the Indian textile sector had all the tailwinds the businesses needed with largescale investments coming in across the value chain. As a result, the scale of conventional textiles in India has grown. However, in spite of the growing demands of domestic and international markets, the conventional textiles sector is highly saturated. It is facing challenges such as high competition levels, high inflation rates, less control over prices and a decrease in profitability levels.

As India is transforming into a developed nation, huge emphasis is being laid on incorporating the latest technologies in various fields. Since the conventional textiles industry is saturated in terms of development, innovation and value-addition, there is a dire need to explore other segments.

The need of the hour for India’s textiles industry is to expand in niche segments and make the industry globally competitive. In the present scenario, the segment of technical textiles poses great potential for upgrading the Indian textiles industry. It consists of an array of high-engineered niche products, where textiles provide a functional edge, rather than just acting as a surface. The most talked about alternative in the leather industry—synthetic leather—lies among the pool of technical textiles.

Classified as a coated fabric, synthetic leather is commonly of two types: polyurethane (PU)based and polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-based. It is manufactured by coating a base fabric, which can be woven, knitted or nonwoven; with any of the two mentioned polymers.

Global Trade of Synthetic Leather

The global market has seen a paradigm shift towards vegan fashion, which refers to adopting non-leather products. As a result, synthetic leather products are dominating the market of various end-use industries such as footwear, upholstery for automotive, furnishing, apparel, etc. In 2017, the global trade of synthetic leather fabric was approximately $9.8 billion, out of which $6 billion was of PU-coated fabric. In the last ten years, synthetic leather fabric has grown at a CAGR of 3.5 per cent, among which PU leather and PVC leather have grown at a CAGR of 4 per cent and 3 per cent, respectively.