I dislike the idea of wearing leather, but don't faux materials feel stiff and look phony?

A: Not anymore. We've come a long way from mock croc that resembles embossed plastic, or pleather you can't bear to touch. These days the best faux skins have such a believable texture (designers even build in tiny irregularities) that you honestly can't tell they're synthetic. Only the price gives the game away—and that's another advantage: Simulated leather is less expensive than real. For purists intent on avoiding all animal products, there are vegan companies (like Matt & Nat) that not only shun leather but use vegetable-based dyes and glue.

Cheap jeansThe (Un)Real Thing: This blouson-style jacket feels supple and luxurious but costs peanuts (Newport News, $79). The glossy, plausibly textured vegan clutch has a clear conscience (Matt & Nat, $185). An ultrachic peep-toe mixes "skins" in different colors (Olsenhaus, $198).


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