How does the material of your handbag effect the state of the Planet?
(DW, we get asked this question all the time).The following statements are just some of the comments we have heard over the years.
We've published them to set the record straight but would like to preface that we are not perfect.
As a business and as conscious designers, we are very much in our infancy, growing and learning with every turn.
As the world changes, so do we.
As technology advances, so do we.
And, just as we set out to change the Fashion Industry and demand transparency,
we hope you do too.
Myth Bust #1: Leather Is a Natural Product
Correction: it WAS a natural product.
It was natural when it was the skin of an animal. Its job is to protect the inside of the animal from the outside and, if that animal died in a field, it's leather would eventually return to the Earth to nourish and feed the soil once again. #CircleOfLife
However, Leather as we know it is not natural by the time we see, touch and buy it. To get it to this stage it is treated with copious amounts of toxic chemicals, designed to stop your handbag from rotting under your arm as you wear it.
Once this leather has been discarded and eventually makes its way to landfill, it leeches these chemicals in to the Earth, destroying the health of the soil.
This is why many former leather-making land-sites are classified by Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA) as 'Superfund' sites, or “uncontrolled hazardous waste sites”. It may feel wasteful not to, but converting cow skin from Abattoirs into leather is so toxic that many Scientists believe it would be better for our ecosystem (including our own health) to simply let cow skins biodegrade.1
As far as environmental degradation goes, the above doesn't even cover the impact of raising the cow before the leather-making process and unfortunately it only gets worse for leather.
Myth Bust #2: 'Vegan Leather' Is a Sustainable Alternative
And in rolls 'The Lesser of Two Evils' argument.
First of all, let's address the Elephant in the Room (pardon the pun). Vegan Leather is what we grew up knowing as 'Pleather'.
Like so many trends, it has been dredged up by the Fashion Industry and rebranded from that nasty nickname into 'Vegan Leather'. Playing to the conscience of the consumer who views Vegan choices to be more 'wholesome', Fashion brands everywhere have jumped on the Plant-based bandwagon and are including 'Vegan' choices within their Ready-to-Wear and High-Street offerings to appease the trend.
"Great" says PETA*, "Less animals are losing their lives for Fashion". "Shit" says Clean Up Australia*, who's only just tackled the Single Use Plastic Bag situation in Metropolitan Australia.
Sure, Pleather doesn't harm an animal directly but how about their habitat? We won't get started on plastic and it's wondrously insidious ability to break up, not down but by now you will probably know that "every single piece of plastic ever produced - still remains on this Earth today"2. These fragments of plastic are polluting our soils and waterways, eventually entering our food chain through the flesh of the fish being consumed.
Like leather, the path to production for Pleather, (aka Polyurethane or P.U). is just as destructive on the Planet. Being made from a Polymer (i.e. Plastic), P.U. is Petroleum-based which is drilled up from the Earth's centre. We're not going to get into the mining of our finite resources and fossil fuels but you're starting to get the picture.
*Assumed conversations for creative writing purposes only.
Myth Bust #3: Eco-P.U. is Environmentally-friendly.
OH, COME ON.
If this isn't using Selective Marketing Terms or Greenwashing, we don't know what is. The giveaway is in the name - P.U.
Essentially this is what is known as Water-based P.U. It is still 'Polyurethane' but instead of the thousands of toxins used to create the meterage, it only requires hundreds. What even that means.
For some clarity on this, keep in mind that when a brand states they are using "Environmentally-friendly Eco-P.U." they are simply avoiding the necessary disclaimer *when compared to regular P.U.".
As you can imagine, this topic really gets up our nose and is precisely the reason we started on this journey in the first place. Despite being unknown and relatively unpopular with Handbag makers when it was first developed, we persevered with plant-based textiles such as Piñatex (AKA Pineapple Leather). We set out to prove that with the right styling and workmanship, the above two substances were essentially redundant in the future of Fashion.
The below are some of the links referred to in our Myth Busters. Please feel free to click through and even further your own knowledge of the materials we use.
Afterall, you don't know what you don't know.