What comes to your mind when you think of leather?
Is it the durability of the product? or maybe your favorite leather belt, bag, or perhaps pair of shoes! If you look around your house, you surely do own something made of leather.
Leather, which started being used as a by-product of food in the 1300 BC, has now become a $30 Billion industry in itself.
So… what is leather?
Leather, simply put, is processed and chemically treated (tanned) animal skin (or hide). The chemicals used in treatment make leather more durable and less susceptible to decomposition. This processed animal skin, let’s be honest – why call it leather, is then manufactured into multiple products such as footwear, clothing, fashion accessories, interiors and car upholstery. Over the years, different types of leathers have been developed in the world, namely artificial (faux) and vegan.
However, this durable and good to look at product, comes at a great environmental cost.
Most of the leather comes from bovine animals – cows, sheep and goats and each year approximately 3.8 billion animals are slaughtered for leather production. The process of tanning itself uses highly toxic chemicals such as chrome that release toxic waste into waterways and cause serious harm not only to tannery workers but also to communities nearby. Excessive production and livestock rearing has led to severe environmental impacts such as deforestation, water and land overuse, and gas emissions In the last 50 years alone. Seventy percent (70%) of the Amazon rainforest has been cleared to make way for pastures, or, for growing feed crops.
If leather is not environmentally friendly, then we should take a look at artificial leathers. However, not all artificial leathers are created equally. Even though there are different types of artificial/faux leather being used in the industry, most are covered in layers of PVC or plastic and have at least one third as much impact as animal leather.
Thankfully, there has been growing awareness about the immediate need to shift to cruelty free and environment friendly products. People across the globe in countries such as France, Brazil, Portugal, England, US and India are using plant based raw material to invent consumer and fashion products such as footwear, clothing and accessories.
But the need of the hour is a broader, united and worldly shift in perspective to bring about a change in consumer purchase practices. In simple words, change begins with you. The next time you are shopping at your favorite store ask the sales representative about the carbon footprint, sourcing and material of the product. Let’s all pledge to save the Earth, one sustainable action at a time.
Here’s a small list of some interesting brands that use non-traditional raw material to re-invent traditional products –
Materials used: Vegetable tanned leather and recycled plastic bottles. VEJA is a premium French footwear brand that was built in an effort to combat the negative effects of globalization and re-invent the sneaker industry. VEJA works with small producers and social associations in Brazil and France for production and the soles of VEJA sneakers are made with wild rubber from Amazonian rainforests.
Materials used: Cork, Pineapple, Plastic materials and ecological microfibers. Nae, full for, No Animal Exploitation, is a Portuguese vegan footwear brand based on the principles of fair trade, animal friendly alternatives and environment sustainability. Nae is known for creating modern products such as footwear, bags, belts and wallets with natural eco-friendly materials and its ethical manufacturing. They cater to all genders.
Materials used: PU based Vegan Leather Nanushka is a Budapest born and bred brand by London College Alumni, Sandra Sandor and her partner. They use an EU-certified polyurethane blend that contains no PVC or harmful chemicals to substitute leather. Their product range includes everything from chic clothing, trendy footwear and statement accessories.
4. NEMANTI MILANO
Materials used: Faux leather Nemanti, earlier known as Opificio V, is an Italian luxury vegan shoe brand. They use a plethora of materials such as linen, waxed cotton and wood, alcantara with zero CO2 emissions and faux leather derived from the refuse of the production of grains in no food cultivations to produce guaranteed ethical and comfortable footwear for both men and women.
Materials used: PETA-approved vegan leather PINKSTIX is a cruelty free and strictly vegan accessory brand manufacturing products such as handbags and scarves using high quality PU or PVC processed leather. This all-girl Canadian brand was born as a joke when the founders decided to paint pink sticks!