Leather for the Environmentally Conscious
Buying leather can feel like a social pressure when you want something that is sustainable sourced but still well made and fashionable.
As a follow up to our earlier post about leather jackets, we thought we would take the time to explain some considerations for purchasing leather.
One of the most difficult decisions is what kind of leather jacket to buy. Leather jackets can be a great investment. Real lamb or calfskin leather is never cheap (or it really shouldn't be at least) and it is important to invest in a piece that you feel you will continue to wear for seasons to come. One way to prevent animal abuse in garment manufacturing is to purchase pieces that are well made or use leather that is obtained from the meat industry. That way, it is not wasted and it is not obtained through less than environmentally or socially responsible ways.
Another factor to consider is what types of chemicals are used in the tanning process for leather. Many are tanned with harsh chemicals that are in turn harmful to the environment (this wonderfully complex process called biomagnification, but that is a topic for another time). For example, most of the leathers on the market are chromium tanned, meaning that they use chromium based salts which allow for durable products and a wider range of colors but are very harsh on the environment. Chromium salts were a product of the Industrial Revolution and have been maintained as the cheapest and most effective way to tan leather. They are also useful when trying to create a wide array of colors or tan multiple different types of hides.
Though it may be more expensive to produce, leathers can be tanned in vegetable based chemicals that are more sustainable and less harmful to the local ecosystems. An example of this is boiled leather. Though they are more socially conscious, vegetable tanned leathers are not always as durable as aldehyde or chromium tanned leathers.
While we have featured many brands that do not abide by these rules, our blog's philosophy is to cover fashion in the general sense and not as a niche market. We do feature some brands that do not use leather from the meat industry that is vegetable tanned, but it is well constructed and will last for many seasons to come. For our blog, we focus more on cut and quality when trying to demonstrate the types of pieces that people should be looking for. That being said, when purchasing leather, we do try to focus on pieces that are either faux leather (the TopShop moto jacket from last weeks post) or leather that is environmentally friendly and well made (HEAVY emphasis on the latter... this is probably the only faux leather we have purchased and it was specifically for this shoot. There are many harmful chemicals involved in the making of faux leather but we can discuss that another time).
When we make clothing, we ensure that we source leathers that meet these specific requirements because we want our clothing to be sustainably produced. For a list of brands that produce environmentally conscious leather and where to find them, see below. If none of these feel suitable to you, look for faux leathers. They are now made with much higher quality than they used to be and can be a good substitute for real leather. However, they do not last as long and there are many harmful chemicals involved in the process of faux leather production.
- Pelechecoco - sustainably sourced leather
- Naz and Court - sustainably sourced leather
- Better World Fashion - recycled leather
- All Saints - environmentally conscious leather
- Falcon Garments - handmade, sustainably sourced leather in NYC