We humans have been wearing animal hides for longer than any other fabric, and it’s hard to dispute cow hide’s tactile warmth, breathable waterproof quality and sexy tendency to mould to fit. Little wonder it has found its way from warrior armour and blacksmiths’ aprons to cowboys and biker gear and into the world of luxury fashion and the gorgeous shoes and handbag designers products, I love to buy. Leather shoes, in particular, are difficult to better.
Those of us who’ve eschewed leather as barbaric animal exploitation are in crisis, with recent discussion suggesting the petroleum-based vegan alternatives are even worse for the planet we all share. Perhaps it’s time to reassess leather’s green potential.
Most modern tanning uses carcinogenic chromium, then released in wastewater, and we also know that unscrupulous cattle ranchers are destroying the rainforest. But the cow leather we use is often a waste product, while sustainable farming and traditional natural tanning and dyeing processes at least offer the potential to make it considerably greener than popular vegetarian alternatives.
The fashion footwear industry is stepping up. Sandra Canselier of Coclico, for example, is combining inherited wisdom from her French shoemaker family with respect for nature to create quality leather shoes that are as sustainable as they are classically beautiful. The leather, from accredited sustainable tanneries, is vegetable dyed, and natural components like cork, wood and organic linen are used to create the integral structure of the shoe, rather than just as natural-looking trims. Recycled cork, foam and lead- and nickel-free metals are also used, all sourced as locally as possible to her Mallorca factory. Beautiful designs but a little bit too practical for the fashionista that love the impractical high fashion brands that are so cutting edge high fashion. Coclico, bring us some impractical, stunning evening shoes!
Husna Bulbuloglu of Husna Sandals learned her craft from Bodrum master sandal maker Ali Güven, who first caught the attention of the fashion world with the sublimely simple traditional leather sandals he created for Hollywood’s Troy, and clients like Mick Jagger and Sting. Wowing Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2015 with her opulent hand crafted sandals, luxuriously embellished with silver and precious stones, Husna uses certified organic cowhide preserved with locally sourced oak bark extract or vegetable tannins, and finished with natural oils. You have to be a fan of the Gladiator styling, which is not a fashion trend for everyone.
Both designers are impressively steering the luxury leather fashion industry in a more sustainable direction, as well as making absolutely gorgeous footwear even if it’s a little practical at times for those of us that love the high fashion, high heeled styles. I will come back to Coclico in particular as part of the sustainability score card I plan to do, as there are some parts of their strategy that is truly leading the way for sustainable fashion.
If you still can’t face wearing animal skin, take a look at my next blog post on sustainable vegan alternatives.