Nothing, and I mean nothing, is quite as cool as a leather jacket. For “It” girls and tough guys alike, it is an absolute wardrobe staple.
And nothing is quite as versatile — and if you know anything about me, you know I’m a big fan of versatility (big, huge). It’s pretty much seasonless. You get the right one and it will easily take you from day to night. And despite being the biggest badass of your wardrobe, a good leather jacket still plays well with others — you can pair it with jeans and a tee for a casual look or top of a feminine dress to add a little bit of edge.
The unfortunate thing about all this, is that leather comes with a little bit of baggage. First, leather obviously comes from the hides of animals, which brings up a plethora of animal welfare issues. This is definitely true if you’re vegetarian or vegan, but even if that’s not you, it does bring up issues about the treatment of cattle (and other animals) raised for food.
Second, leather needs to be treated — de-haired, de-greased, tanned, dried, softened, recolored and finished — before it turns into that badass jacket. And quite often these processes are chemical-laden and use tons of water. The making of one new leather jacket in today’s typical mass production uses nearly 8,000 gallons of water, a minimum of 10 different chemicals and is responsible for roughly 440 pounds of CO2 emissions.
The majority of leather products go through chrome tanning, which is both incredibly toxic and water intensive. The process uses a mixture of chemicals, acid and salts to dye the hyde. This puts workers at risk and also produces toxic byproducts that have been known to pollute the air, water and soil.
And, unfortunately, vegan leather isn’t really a better option. Today most faux or vegan leathers are made from plastic materials such as PVC. PVC requires hazardous chemicals in its production, and because it’s a plastic product, it is not biodegradable. Polyurethane, or PU, is another vegan option that is less toxic, but is still made from fossil fuels and the production process releases tons of carbon dioxide into the air.
So, what’s a gal to do? Well, there are some more ethical options out there. I can’t say that any of these options are perfect (you have to decide which ethical considerations are most important to you), but what I can say is that they are better.
Deadwood was started by two friends who knew how vital a good leather jacket was to any wardrobe. But they also knew that sustainability and humane conditions needed to be incorporated into the fashion industry, especially when it came to leather. That’s why they started their recycled leather program, in which they collect post-consumer vintage leather garments and use them to produce new pieces from their own designs. They also believe in humane conditions for all workers in their supply chains.
Pelechecoco believes that people shouldn’t have to limit themselves to be sustainable (and let me just say that I would feel quite limited without my leather jacket). That’s why they use recycled leather to make their jackets. They rescue their leather from the tons of clothes that are thrown away each year and turn that leather into one of a kind leather jackets. They hand pick every leather garment they use to make sure it is the highest quality and has a unique look. They use much less water producing their jackets than the rest of the industry and don’t use any chemicals. Period. They also want to make sure there are sustainable options that are affordable and available to everyone, that’s why they sell their jackets at a reasonable price.
Better World Fashion (or BWF) is a sustainable alternative that supports your fashion habit, your wallet and your environmental conscious. The company lives by the motto that everything can be reused. All of their leather jackets are made of recycled materials, which are given a new lease of life with their constantly evolving designs. They use two old jackets to produce one new jacket, and to reduce their own production waste they have partnered with other companies to use their scrap cuttings to produce bags, wallets, etc. They have partnered with Aalborg University Center for Design, Innovation and Sustainable Transitions to audit their products and processes and create transparency around their CO2, water, chemical and waste footprints. And, you can buy or lease their jackets. Their leasing program allows you to change your jacket every 6 months. They also have a buyback program that gives you a 50% discount on your next jacket when you return your old one to be, you guessed it, reused into a new style.
Where is your favorite leather jacket from? Know of any other companies that are making badass leather or leather-substitute jackets?