Have you ever considered how your leather shoes, or bags are tanned?
You may have heard companies using phrases like “chrome-free” leather. I had no idea until I started to investigate, that chrome may be used in the tanning process of leather. Actually, I had very little clue about how leather is produced at all.
What’s the alternative to chrome?
Vegetable tanning is a “chromium-free” way to tan leather,without using harmful chemicals. The process uses natural tannins found in bark, wood and plants to turn animal skin into leather. Vegetable tanning doesn’t subject workers to high levels of toxic chemicals, and those chemicals are not then carried into the supply chain.
Why don’t all shoe manufacturers use vegetable tanning?
The Vegetable tanning process can apparently take up to 12 months! This long tanning process inevitably has a cost implication when the leather reaches retailer. It also uses more water than chemical methods of tanning. BUT the water is not polluted so when it is put back into a river there is no damage to the environment, unlike with chemical tanning processes where the water is heavily polluted.
I know many people who were shocked by the Stacey Dooley Investigates programme on fashion last year. It really was an eye opener just how badly the planet is being polluted by our desire for fast, cheap fashion. So we do all need to start thinking about what we are buying.
I think the real beauty of vegetable tanned leather, is each piece is unique. Colours will be very subtly different. So, it’s good for the worker, good for the environment and looks good too!
I joined in with #FreeTheShoes over on Instagram this weekend. A protest organised by shoe manufacturer Po-Zu – who I’m a great fan of. They are appealing this week, during London Fashion Week for more to be done to ensure shoes are made using ethical processes. Po-Zu are going to be 100% Vegan from A/W-19, using sustainable materials such as Pinatex. Having just got my first pair of Pinatex shoes, I think I am prepared the admit that maybe there are great alternatives to leather.
It’s not always easy to know how fashion has been produced, and I think fashion brands have a responsibility to be more transparent. I have to be honest and say it’s kids shoes I really struggle with. I love the Po-Zu Star Wars kids shoes but I really need suggestions of brands who produce school shoes in an eco-friendly way. That’s my research for the week planned…