Leather, Ethics and Sustainability
At Village Leathers we care about how our everyday choices - both in our professional and personal lives - affect our local community, our planet, and the world in which we live.
We actively pursue a business model that is as kind to the environment as possible, with regular reviews of our methods and a constant eye for innovations that might move forward our brand commitment to sustainability.
We constantly work to minimise the environmental impact of our production model, always researching potential efficiencies and new developments in eco friendly materials, technologies and methods.
Here’s an insight into how we chose to address some of the current issues contributing to global warming such as the culture of overconsumption, fast fashion and irresponsible sourcing of materials, and to secure that here at Village Leathers we don’t participate in these harmful practices.
So, to be clear, we don’t deceive ourselves about the provenance of leather, and we are conscious that we are bound up in an economy reliant on the farming of animals. Of course, intensive farming is a huge contributor to climate emergency, but whilst this economy still exists, there is a by-product (leather) that would be wasted. We choose the most sustainable route we can, to use up this biodegradable by-product.
Firstly, we exclusively use by-product leather from only LWG (Leather Working Group) approved tanneries. The Leather Working Group is the world’s largest leather sustainability program. The LWG is a global organisation auditing and accrediting environmental best practices throughout the leather supply chain. Subject to European standards of animal welfare and environmental performance, LWG is committed to minimizing the environmental impact while encouraging sustainability and traceability throughout the full journey of your leather products.
Unfortunately, an affordable, viable leather alternative continues to be a serious conundrum. So often “vegan leather” is plastic based, most commonly polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane (PU), neither of which are fully biodegradable.
Moreover, while the possibility of recycled leather is being explored, unfortunately the energy used in the process, the PU based binding agents, and the limited life span of these recycled leathers, prevent them from being a realistic sustainable alternative at this time.
By using up a byproduct of the meat industry we help to reduce animal hides going to waste. All of our belts are crafted from vegetable tanned leather. Vegetable tanning uses natural, organic materials to process hides from a raw material into high quality Leathers. With no harsh chemicals being released into the environment, it is the most eco-friendly method of leather tanning.
We take care to craft our products in a way that ensures they can last a lifetime, they can even become well loved hand-me-downs. Our veg tanned Classic belts have a 25 year warranty and we offer a repair service for our customers treasured items. Once a belt or bag is ready to retire, because it’s made from veg tanned leather it can be biodegraded. It takes veg tanned leather around 50 years to decompose, compared to 1000 years for its plastic counterpart. All our product information is available on the product page so look out for items labeled as veg tanned Leather if you’d like to make the most environmentally friendly choice.
We work with just a handful of Tanneries to select our leather. As well as exclusively sourcing from tanneries approved by the Leather Working Group, all our belt leather is produced to the highest standards set out by Pelle Al Vegetale. These standards include a commitment to only using hides which are a by-product of the meat industry and member tanneries investing in waste recycling systems to recover and reuse substances.
There are some fantastic leather alternatives being developed and we do like to keep ourselves informed of these innovations and possibilities, however it is in this rock - hard place situation, we believe that vegetable tanned leather has the relative benefit of being both highly durable whilst using up an ultimately biodegradable byproduct.
Of course, the ideal is for humans to increasingly reduce and neutralise their environmental impact, which is why we are committed to using only LWG tanneries, and why we commit to our own continued practice of researching new developments, materials and processes that improve sustainability and pursue our values.
Rethinking old habits
Fast fashion is at the forefront of hyperconsumerism. The constant feed of new trends from large corporations encourages us to keep buying new products and discard the old, leading to perfectly useable items often going to landfill. Moreover, these products must be manufactured as cheaply as possible so companies make a large profit. Most of the time of course, this means the manufacturing process is far from sustainable and there is a risk of employees being exploited.
Once we start to unpick consumerism and fast fashion many issues arise. There’s the extremely low wages of workers and poor working conditions. In the manufacturing process there can be harmful chemicals released into local water sources. During material and product distribution emissions released from the methods of transport used. The social and environmental cost of fast fashion is far more expensive for the planet than it is for your wallet.
But do not despair, let’s think about how we can change our shopping habits and continue to own items we love. One small change that will make a big difference is if we purchase goods from socially and environmentally responsible companies, this will lessen our impact on the environment and support fair working conditions. Win win!
Sustainably produced products may well be more expensive than ‘fast fashion’ products, however, as mentioned above, unfortunately those lower prices are usually only artificially achieved by exploitation of people and of planet; not being fans of either of those, here at Village Leathers our goal is to be constantly working to reduce our impact.
As individuals, and collectively, we are concerned with and care about our planet and community; we actively strive for a business model that is environmentally low impact and sustainable.
In making, we aim to create lasting products, investment purchases which will really live, rather than questionably produced fast fashion, destined almost immediately for landfill.
With the right skills and facilities it is possible to craft products that are both sustainable and affordable, while respecting your staff and surroundings. Our years of experience and range of stellar machines allows us to manufacture our products in an incredibly cost effective way - and we pass that saving on to our customers.
Of course, we completely understand that the additional cost of a sustainably produced product can be off-putting, but we believe in investment buying and strive to make products that really will last, working on the principle that the initial cost is soon balanced by the longevity and quality of the item - for example, assuming our Classic belts last 25 years (they’re guaranteed for that long!) you’ll be spending on average 80p per year on it - not too bad !
Built into the business model of fast fashion is waste; seasonal fashion trends are expected to be discarded in line with new trends, even if it’s still in perfectly usable condition. That said, often the products themselves will not be particularly durable, ready to be added to landfill in time for the next season’s fashion, all with total disregard for the wider impacts of this - quite literally - wasteful model.
This is all the more why we at Village Leathers create classic designs that outlive fleeting trends; our products are timeless, only getting better with age. In choosing Village Leathers, you can be confident that your purchase will last indefinitely, will have been produced sustainably and will kinder on the environment than competitors.
Made in London
London is the heritage and the inspiration of Village Leathers. Our brand was born here in 1974, and we continue to work from the same quirky and well-aged workshop. From here we continue to promote local skills and traditional craft in an area where many in the manufacturing sector have been pushed out. Our employees have high working standards and we champion giving the opportunity to learn traditional methods and increasingly rare skills. Before (and hopefully after!) the pandemic, the majority of our custom took place in our Covent Garden stores, meaning our creations travel a mere five miles to their sales destination - a small way we are reducing the carbon footprint of our business.
Online orders are dispatched using plastic free packaging and we constantly monitor ways in which we might continue to minimise environmental impact while ensuring our products travel safely.
Our open and transparent approach lets customers make fully informed decisions, confident our materials are responsibly sourced.
We believe wholeheartedly in protecting our planet and by making small changes to our daily lives and habits we can protect it together. By continually examining every aspect of our business and how our products are created we work towards a more socially and environmentally friendly business model.
If you’d like to find out more or have a question about a specific product please get in touch.