The slow fashion movement and artisanal leather

We take a look at the place of artisanal leather processes within the slow fashion movement and how it can contribute towards a more sustainable future for the fashion industry...

Today’s fashion industry is facing a huge sustainability challenge. Clothes and accessories in the majority of high street brands are being mass produced without so much as a glance at the bigger picture - the impact on the social and ecological environment.

The fashion industry has a lot to answer for regarding its contribution to the sustainability challenge. That includes the depletion of fossil fuels and freshwater reservoirs in garment production and transportation as well as the use of pesticides and man made synthetic fibres in horrific quantities.

The consequences are sobering. Droughts, desertification and climate change are not words that we would want to associate with the fashion industry.

Specifically, the current fast-fashion leather production system is oppressed with dodgy health and safety procedures for adults and children involved in the skinning and tanning processes (think toxic chemicals and knives) and poor animal treatment.

Often people don’t know much, if anything, about where their fast-fashion leather accessories originate and in what conditions or with what cost to the environment they were made.

Throw away fashion

Consumers are encouraged to over-purchase by retailers selling products so cheaply. We buy more than we need, because it doesn’t cost us. But we remain unaware of the hidden costs to the environment and often the workers in the production chain. We are part of a wasteful generation that has grown accustomed to replacing things that get broken, rather than fixing them or spending more to have things that last.

clothes for sale on street

It is estimated that Americans dispose of about 12.8m tons of textiles annually. And as a society in general, we are so quick to replace what is broken or unwanted, and throw away when the new trends come in. We aren’t really in the habit of spending more money, or saving money to buy individually crafted or slow-made clothes and accessories that will last and stand the test of time.

What is the slow fashion movement?

The slow fashion movement represents the rise of artisans and designers who are striving to ensure value, longevity and a considered approach to the connection with the environment in the creation and manufacture of their products.

The slow-made approach is considered to be a fairly revolutionary concept in the fashion world. Those affiliated to the slow fashion movement are demonstrating a recognition that collectively, decisions can be made to positively affect the environment and society as a whole.

Artisanal leather making

locally sourced leather

There isn’t a single piece of clothing or accessory that doesn’t impact the environment in some way. And leather making certainly has an impact on the environment.

As an artisanal leather company, we at Colville Leather are determined to be part of the answer. We employ methods and use materials that help to decrease any negative impact of production- where possible, we use environmentally friendly dyes (our brown dye is is derived from brown walnut husks) and responsibly sourced leather to produce sustainable slow-made leather wallets and belts. We also source locally where possible. For example, our Oak Bark Tanned Leather Belt is made from leather sourced a mere hour’s journey away in Colyton, Devon.

What place does artisanal leather making have in the slow fashion movement?

Artisanal leather making is all about making accessories more sustainable, and encouraging people to purchase timeless, hand-crafted, slowly produced pieces that will last. It is the antithesis to the current state of the fashion industry, and a stance against the status quo. Slow fashion and artisanal craftsmanship aim to gradually eliminate consumerism from cheaply-made, mass produced, fast-fashion brands.

Craftsmen of artisanal leather goods make each piece slowly and by hand, locally sourcing materials and dyes where possible. You can see and feel the beauty in each uniquely crafted accessory. The individuality of each belt, wallet or bag is what makes artisanal leather so distinctive. Marks and scars on the leather are celebrated.

making artisinal leather accessories

At Colville Leather, we are striving to reintroduce a generation to the longevity and beauty of slow-made leather accessories. We strongly believe that by making products that do not need to be replaced regularly, we are contributing to a more sustainable future.

We stand by our products and offer a lifetime repair warranty for our customers- we make our products with longevity in mind. You can see the details of the dyeing processes and leathers used for each belt, wallet and bag.

The unique qualities of slow-made leather accessories

Some of Colville Leather’s belts go through an 18 month long process from start to finish, but the finished product ‘speaks for itself’. The ageing process for each artisanal leather accessory is unique and contributes to the individual patina of each piece.

Part of the beauty of buying slow-made leather accessories is that customers can know more of the story of the product they’re buying and form part of the narrative. Understanding the process is part of slow-fashion. People are actively looking for individuality and a story: you can purchase all of Colville’s wallets in a variety of different colours by special request.

The story of each piece of artisanal leather evolves organically - the ageing process doesn’t stop on purchase. The leather will continue to soften and change according to light exposure, handling and specific use. Depending on how many cards you fit into your wallet, the leather will stretch to accommodate.

ageing process of artisinal leather belts

We believe that Colville’s leather slow-made leather accessories will grow old with you and be passed down through the generations, and that you will relish being part of the answer to a more sustainable future.

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