Irene Fedrigo is an Italian Print and Textile Designer who worked in the fashion industry for the past 5 years. She is sharing with us her expertise on a very delicate topic: leather

I have always considered leather a very good material. It’s durable, long-lasting, can be used for many products and it’s also a classic statement piece. Leather products give you the feeling of luxuriousness and originality.

Nowadays there is still a high demand for leather products, especially in the shoes and bags industries and the supply chain has had to adapt to the pressures of market expectations.

Many people believe there is no good alternative to leather products and that eco-leather does not provide the same level of comfort and durability. They argue that no other materials would withstand the same performance and durability that leather has shown consistently to have for many years.

However, I am concerned about the processes involved in producing these products. 

It’s not the same process used many years ago which involved the industries’ use of natural products. There has been a shift and the focus is now in making this process quicker and the production more efficient, at the expense of the welfare of humans and animals alike.

The use of leather is not a sustainable solution anymore, the tanning process has disastrous consequences on the environment and those individuals who work in the industry.

The process used to tan the majority of leather it’s highly reliant on the chemical and raw material industry and is very tightly connected with the food industry. The tanning industry claims to play a positive environmental role due to their removal of a waste product generated by the meat industry but their profits alone make it difficult to think this a major focus of theirs.

I am more inclined to think that the two industries are allies in promoting the sale of meat and therefore of leather.

The leather industry is a dominant global industry and plays a very important role in many industries and countries. Globally speaking, there is a huge reliance on the leather industry and there may be a risk to primary industries as a whole if there was a collapse of the leather industry. Both the meat and leather industry have to maintain livestock farming and slaughtering in order to maintain their profits.

The meat industry is equally polluting. It relies on the use of large quantities of raw materials such as water and arable land, and it is largely dependent on the use of agricultural products and antibiotics.

With regard to the pollution produced, we must highlight the use of greenhouse gas emissions, methane emissions and land degradation.

I believe there are many other materials that could be used instead of leather obtained from animals and the reliance on this current system is not a solution in moving forward.

Many companies have worked on different solutions and focused on new, innovative ways of sustainability.

Desserto it’s one of these brands. They have developed a sustainable vegan leather made from cactus and their aim is to offer a cruelty-free solution, without the use of toxic chemicals normally adopted in the leather industry.

Another innovative solution is from the brand Modern Meadow. They are developing a biomaterial as an alternative to leather by experimenting with cultured animal cells and tissues to create a biomaterial as a substitute for traditional leather. This lab-grown leather could offer a more sustainable alternative.

The industry as a whole is probably not ready to embrace this change but I believe this innovation could create a new frontier of material and design development, reducing the impact of this industry while satisfying the market demand.

There are many differing opinions about the leather industry and many areas to highlight as an enduring problem with the industry itself. By writing this article, I didn’t want to convince anyone I just wanted to create curiosity and awareness around the topic.

After all, we should all try to be more responsible consumers 😉

Irene Fedrigo is an Italian Print and Textile Designer who worked in the fashion industry for the past 5 years. She has deeply been immersed in the fast fashion industry and she became increasingly aware of the environmental problems the world faces and the need for actions to be taken to find key solutions for a more sustainable future. She felt the responsibility to act immediately and she created an Instagram page where she shares ideas and tips to adopt for a more sustainable lifestyle. "It's really easy to avoid the issues at stake and continue living the same way we are used to" she says " but it's important to ensure we make an effort, abandon our comforts and try to discover different ways of living in harmony with our planet".

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