Fast Fashion Leather Fad

Santi Santiago, Fashion Artist, Brazil

Jun 5, 2016

Why using leather in fast fashion is unsustainable

Fast fashion’s’ latest brilliant idea is to bring real handmade leather to the world of fast fashion i.e. the world of the cheap, cheerful and utterly disposable. What’s the problem with this you might ask? Well the problem is that fast fashion can only make the enormous profits that Forever Twenty-One and H and M make by extremes of mass production and extremely fast turnover and by paying extremely low wages. Leaving out the fact that they are laying waste to our environment and the social structures of poor countries, this is worked more to their advantage using fake leather and other man-made materials.

But wait! Who wants fake when you can have the real thing? The only thing better than fake leather is real leather. Now personally I actually like leather products, that probably comes from my background of riding motorcycles when genuine leather saved my hide more than one occasion, however genuine motorcycle leathers are incredibly expensive and are handmade. They do however last a lifetime if looked after and the price you pay for them is reflected in the quality and also respect for the animal involved however this article isn’t about motorcycle leathers and the cult of handmade this is about the polar opposite.

Tanneries which process leather

Used and abused

Fast fashion is not designed to last at all-it is to be used and abused and then dumped, preferably in some unsuspecting Third World country. This means that in order to keep up with the demand and high turnover, which you can mark down as “profit” you’re going to need enormous quantities of leather. Where does leather come from? Cows of course! So now we are talking not thousands or tens of thousands or even perhaps hundreds of thousands of cows but more likely in the millions. Millions of cows to be slaughtered and millions of tons of leather to be processed. Who is going to do all this work and how much is it going to cost? The irony is most of this will be done in India which is, of course, a Hindu nation with the cow too sacred to kill. In order to do work which is against their religious beliefs, they often employ people who are poorer than themselves and untouchable or they go across the border to Pakistan and employ Moslem children to do the dirty work for them.

Tanneries which process leather are some of the most polluting industries on this planet. You can read about it and the damage they cause here.

Quite frankly the idea is ridiculous and completely unsustainable. Already large parts of Indian countryside have been completely destroyed by tanneries, increasing their workload for work which for them is barely profitable is only going to add not subtract to their huge problems. If the idea of child labour doesn’t really bother you then I guess it is not a factor in your buying decision.
Here at Santa Lucia Swim we try to address whatever problems we can for example we don’t use child labour and wherever possible we try to use products that minimise the effects we have on the environment.

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