Leather VS. Faux Leather
Very few vegan leathers are actually made from natural products. Although some can be made of cork, glazed cotton, or waxed cotton, the majority are made of polyvinylchloride (PVC) and polyurethane.
Materials made form PVS start as very stiff raw materials, and have to be further broken down with substances like phthalates, which can make those materials more flexible. "Certainly phthalates have been banned, and others are under review because they can leach out." This means your bag, shoes or belt can become toxic for you to wear.
The most popular material currently being used is polyurethane. The environmental impact from using these materials is huge as well. Solvents are used in the production process, and these solvents can be highly toxic.
Another thing to keep in mind when considering these types of materials is that there is often a larger footprint made by the factories and assembly lines themselves. (Think water recycling) Although leather has its own problems, (often rooted in the chemicals used to suspend deterioration of the leather) these plastic materials not only take a huge amount of work and chemicals to produce, they also take hundreds of years to break down in a landfill, or worse, the ocean.
Lastly, if you own a plastic product, like shoes or a bag, you know that the wear and tear on those items are significantly worse than leather goods. When synthetic/plastic leather wears out, it doesn't do so attractively, whereas leather often becomes more beautiful with age. This helps extend the life of the product, and likely means you will buy less by buying well made leather items.
Not all leathers are created equally either, and I plan to take some time to talk about those specifically in more depth in the future.
Thanks for reading and keeping yourself informed! Education is power people!