Faux leather is fake leather. Rather than animal skins, these fabrics are made of other materials and may receive treatments to replicate the glossy look of patent leather. There are many names under which faux leather may be sold.
Artificial leather has been made since about 1850, and was originally made from a strong fabric coated with a rubber composition or a synthetic substance such as pyroxylin. Since World War II, materials made from vinyl polymers have become much more common.
There are various methods by which faux leather can be produced. Sometimes it is made entirely of materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Cloth material made of things like polyester or cotton can also be coated with substances to replicate the look of leather.
Plastic leather, sometimes called by the slang term “pleather,” is a synthetic leather made of plastic.
Pleather is shiny and meant to look like patent leather. It tends to be much stiffer than real leather. Originally pleather was mostly made of PVC, but now it is sometimes made from polyurethane.
Faux leather is used for clothing, accessories, upholstery and many other purposes. Plastic leather is typically used in things like shoes, handbags and clothes where the glossy sheen of patent leather is desired.
Not all plastic leathers are the same. Polyurethane is washable, can be dry-cleaned and allows some breathability. Polyvinyl chloride pleather does not breathe and is difficult to clean. PVC cannot be dry-cleaned because the cleaning solvents can make the material stiff.
References and ResourcesEncyclopedia.com: Leather
Patent Storm: Process to Make Synthetic Leather and Synthetic Leather Made Therefrom