DO YOU USE VEGAN LEATHER?
In short, no, we don't. Not yet. It's something we're looking into - but this blog explains why we're staying with our natural veg tan leather for our totes. Like everything, it's a personal choice, but we wanted to share with you our thoughts on why we've come to this decision.
WHAT IS "VEGAN" LEATHER?
Vegan leather is a material used extensively in the fashion industry to make bags and accessories. It's often made with natural resources, such as apple peel, mushrooms or pineapple skin. However, in order for the fabric to be durable and strong, it is usually bonded together with a PU (polyurethane) or PVC (polyvinyl chloride).
WHY DON'T WE USE VEGAN LEATHER?
We are asked this question A LOT. We are constantly researching options in this field, but currently, there aren't any vegan leather alternatives which chime fully with our sustainability goals.
There are two main reasons we don't use vegan leather at the moment:
Number one is the longevity of the material. Commercially available vegan leather is almost always bonded with some kind of synthetic material, it simply doesn't age well: it peels, separates and scuffs. This, in turn, often leads to products looking worn and old before their time, resulting in them being sent to landfill earlier on in their lifecycle, adding to fashion's huge waste problem.
One of our most important core values at The Regular is that every item we design and make gets better with age, and we have yet to find a vegan leather which does that.
Secondly, due to the synthetic component in vegan leathers, it doesn't biodegrade. Nor can it be repaired easily - scuffs can't be buffed out and the upkeep is challenging, and repairs are often not possible.
There's a lot of Greenwashing around the vegan leather debate. Many companies are using an inexpensive PU/PVC material and calling it "vegan leather" but it's simply a synthetic material, which uses a lot of chemicals in the manufacturing process.
WHAT KIND OF LEATHER DO WE USE?
We only use natural, vegetable tanned leather. The tannery we source it from in Italy, is part of the "Pelle Conciata Al Vegatale In Toscana" (Vegetable Tanned Leather of Tuscany). This internationally recognised association has a trademark which functions as a quality and traceability system for all of the tanneries that are associated with it.
Our vegetable tanned leather is much kinder to the environment than regular leather, as it uses far fewer chemicals, and the process of tanning is much, much longer (it can take up to six weeks to make the quality we use). Much of the leather used in the fashion industry is "corrected grain" leather - which is made from lower quality hide (the lower layers of the hide). It's "corrected" by sanding or embossing the surface to remove all imperfections, and then an artificial grain is embossed on top, to give it a "even look". Many large companies only use this kind of leather as it passes QC tests easily. It's also much cheaper.
The vegetable tanned leather we use is a full grain leather, which is the highest grade. It's very natural and the finish on it is minimal. You can see the natural markings, and quite frankly, we love that. It can be repaired easily and it will last you a lifetime.
Our Pioneer Totes always look better with age, and wear. They tell a story. Over time the leather softens, the handles mould to your hands and the bag takes on a beautiful patina that's unique to each wearer. We don't want you to buy a new one every season - it's a genuine bag for life, that can be handed down through generations.
This is our take on sustainability - and this is why we've made the decision to use this beautiful material.
ZERO WASTE PRODUCTION
Leather was probably one of the very first forms of recycling. Our leather is a by-product of the food industry, so it forms part of our strides towards a zero waste policy.
Many of the high end, luxury conglomerates are funding research into vegan leather, so we're keeping a close eye on developments in this field. When something "feels right" and fits with our "last forever" ethos, we would love to offer a vegan alternative. Watch this space...