Natural leather is being harshly attacked. The market is being flooded with new alternative materials badly called "leather" which imitate it in its appearance. The wide diversity in the offer, given by the origin and form of these alternative materials, represent in the end greater possibilities of generating economic benefits and greater control of the fashion industry. But the fact that leather is the most durable material and can be easily recycled because of its high strength and durability, give this extraordinary material a very high competitive advantage over its substitutes in the long term. In this sense, leather is unquestionably extremely positive for a more sustainable world. Of course, in an industry where fashion changes frequently, where at least five collections are produced per year, leather is not the most attractive material.
The author of this blog has nothing against the production of alternative materials in favour of a more sustainable world. The author also refers only to the responsible production of natural leather that benefits present and future communities, the environment and the welfare of animals. We have a high regard for sustainability. However, it is clear that at the moment, there is an erroneous manipulation of the market to privilege the use and consumption of some materials over others, where the essence of the orientation is not based on real sustainability. If we are going to be sustainable, let’s go deeper into it. We have to be more realistic and not superficial about the sustainability approach. It is excellent that we are in a world where we are questioning more and more the damage caused to resources, animals, and the social and human aspects. What worries the author is that the answers given to that concern are in fact producing more harm than good to the planet. Particularly worrying is the excessive attack on leather trying to eliminate it from the market by ignoring its great benefits in this important proposal for a more sustainable world. We respect and celebrate substitutes products from vegetable and others origin but we need to analyse more in depth its benefits and limitations and give the leather the proper leading role that corresponds to it in this context.
Our planet is deteriorating drastically every year. One of the real causes is the waste and pollution that produces the speed of change in the fashion industry. The consumers buy too much clothes and accessories of little durability that after a short use, they discard into the environment. Likewise, the excess of unsold garments in the retail or wholesale fashion industry are in general also discarded into the environment. Are we being honest when we crucify leather in the fashion industry environment?
If we really want to be and act more generously with the planet and its future generations, we have to be more honest with our words, our attitudes, our responsibilities and our actions.
Real Sustainability is a complex but crucial concept in the present and in the definition of the future. Without sustainability there is no future. We have to go deeper into the analysis of the concept and its real meaning in all its aspects and in the context of the long term. Adapting to the concept in a superficial way to make us look better in front of present and future generations, given more priority to our own interest, is definitely a global risk of very high cost.
Nothing is perfect. There is no perfect world; there is no perfect material. However, we can live in a perfectible world. In the context of the fashion industry, let us start organizing the chaos by making it clear that there is only one type of leather and it is the natural one, the one coming from the skin of an animal. The others artificial “leather” materials (badly called leather) are all imitations of leather coming from synthetic or vegetable origin.
Natural leather has been attacked unjustly and irrationally. At the same time; either by manipulation, lack of depth in the analysis, lack of information or by pure intention, the supposed better benefits of artificial “leather” products, have been highlighted without deepening into the consequences of these actions for the true achievement of a real sustainable world. It is dangerous because this influence the quality of the decision making.
If natural leather (obviously the one processed in more responsible way) competes with alternatives synthetic materials, we would not need many arguments to conclude which one is the most convenient for real sustainability. In future blogs we will go deeper into this. By given an example, only in terms of its production, synthetic materials have a high content of chemicals, less resistance and durability and are not biodegradable, which automatically converts them into materials with a high negative impact on the environment. What material deserves to be more attacked? We know the answer. Then, why leather?
Although the materials coming from vegetable origin offer in first place better benefits for the sustainability of the planet, we have to take also into account that leather, processed in a more responsibly way, has greater resistance, durability and greater recycling power in the long term. Leather can last years and even being transferred to future generations. That is not the case for the wrongly called vegan “leather" which actually should be called vegan material. But leather is such as extraordinary product that even under attack, we want to call “leather” its imitation materials. The benefits and negative aspects of the vegan material is also a good point for a more profound explanation that we will analyze in detail later in another article. We want to go deeper in favour of a truly more sustainable world. The greatest importance of natural leather, processed with high responsibility as the main protagonist of real sustainability, is given by the essence of its long-term durability and recycling power (although Keynes said that “in the long run we are all dead "). These intrinsic characteristics of leather make it a product with a long life ends. In another hand, products made of natural leather are essentially classic fashion style. In contrast, synthetic and vegan materials have a shorter lifespan and are ideally suited to meet the changing needs of fashion.
Although lately we are talking about the change from fast fashion to slow fashion, we still asked ourselves how many alternatives of changes we have in the fashion industry in just one year? If we multiply the years by the growing population we would have a clear idea of what we will be dealing with. The increase of tons of waste, without doubt by these alternative materials is a big damage to the present and an unimaginably catastrophe for the future. But fashion sells and satisfies interests of various types from psychological to economics. And here we ask ourselves again the question: which factor is unquestionably more harmful to the environment, the speed of change in fashion or leather?We all know the answer.
Let's be honest, we should focus our efforts on analysing more deep the speed of the change in fashion and improving the levels of responsibility with which we process our most suitable materials. Quality should be above quantity as a priority, although we are aware of the big impact that this would represent in terms of profitability in a world where businesses priorities are very relevant. And let's be clear, we agree that profit motive is the best ways to organize the society, but it would be invaluable to also analyse in depth if we are really managing it responsibly in favour of all the present and future actors in the true construction of a better place to live.
More information regarding natural leather and sustainability at: Leather Naturally Org.