Wednesday, 9 December 2009

leather vs luxury

One of the most important things for me when developing my designs is a consideration of what I use to make products, where it comes from and how materials can be cleverly utilised. As a designer that's a great responsibility. With so much "eco" hype it seems like everyone is eager to jump on the bandwagon and labelling something as such has become a way of selling products which are often not really that much less destructive to the environment. It's also made people a lot more sceptical. As I see it, I don't want any product I design to ultimately involve the suffering of any being or the environment. In particular where shoes are concerned leather is a tricky issue. Particularly in luxury, leathers often involve the uneccessary suffering of animals..(fur, exotics where snakes are skinned alive and even baby goats (kid), baby cow (calf) etc where the animals may be starved prior to slaughter to loosen the skin and so on).

No luxury product in my world could ever be a luxury to me where a sentient being has had to undergo such suffering. That doesn't mean I don't think leather should be used as a material - more the way it's created should be respected and appreciated as a product of something that was once living. Most people see it as a commodity and I think it's sad that we're so de-sensitized to it. Leather is beautiful. Once you understand how to work with it it's so addictive and is rightly the perfect material for making shoes.

I want to find a way of using leather that can also respect the creatures it came from and to do this is nigh impossible. Currently hides are traded globally following slaughter, and the majority of the world's leather comes from animals raised in developing countries where welfare standards are poor. How can you guarantee the leather you're using hasn't come from some poor animal half starved, transported thousands of miles and killed on a production line which slaughters 400 animals an hour? You can't - without the implementation of some kind of tracking system or certification. Enter Soil Association Organic. The Soil Association is the British body for Organic certification. Soil Association standards, “rigorously protect all aspects of animal well-being - from rearing, feeding and shelter, to transportation and slaughter.” So if you can buy Organic meat, why can't you buy Organic leather? Leather which guarantees the welfare of the animal as well as being of high quality: that's my mission.


  1. I agree! What is my greatest wish is that the leather-makers would work together with farms that raise food animals sustainably, ecologically, and cruelty-free. If only the hides from such animals would not go to waste once the animal is slaughtered for food! It seems like such an obvious source of hides - though prime "food animals" may not be looked upon as "luxury leather" animals - why the heck not? Can this at least be even attempted? As long as there is consumer demand for meat then I believe as many parts of the animal as possible should be therefore used instead of being thoughtlessly discarded - or worse, ground up and re-fed to cattle. It just seems to my uneducated mind that such a practice would be far more ecologically sound than separate industries, each of which promote suffering, cruelty, and waste.

  2. Instead of promoting "cruelty free" killing, why not think of those animals' right to live and choose to promote "killing free" fashion? There is no cruelty-free killing, anyone who does any research on the matter knows that the leather and meat industries are all profit-based and the people involved treat their animals with the lowest standards they can get away with. All these labels do nothing except to make the people exploiting animals richer, on the behalf of ignorant consumers, or people who want to feel comfortable with the pain and suffering they are promoting. I am surprised eco-conscious labels are not more animal-conscious.
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