The Rise of Sustainable Handmade Leather Industry

The Rise of Sustainable Handmade Leather Industry

October 30, 2023

The Rise of Sustainable Handmade Leather Industry

The fashion industry's landscape is under radical transformation as it embraces sustainability as a core value. One remarkable change that stands out is the rise and refinement of the sustainable handmade leather industry.
Sustainable leather manufacturing refers to leather production techniques that minimise negative environmental impacts, prioritise ethical and social obligations, and promote waste as a resource. This involves decreasing water consumption, minimising the usage of harmful chemicals, and recycling or repurposing waste.


Understanding Sustainable Leather Manufacturing

Sustainable leather manufacturing is a process that emphasises the humane treatment of animals, fair labour practices, and transparency in the supply chain. The objective is to create a more responsible, environmentally friendly leather industry.

The Role of Sustainability in Leather Manufacturing

The importance of sustainability in leather manufacturing must be considered. Adopting sustainable practices in the leather industry can reduce environmental impact, promote social responsibility, and produce high-quality and safe leather products.

Innovations in Sustainable Leather Production

Recent years have seen significant advancements in sustainable leather manufacturing. These advancements include using eco-friendly materials, adopting renewable energy, recycling and waste reduction techniques, implementing traceability systems, and developing alternative leather materials.

leather manufactoring 

The Conventional Leather Manufacturing Process

Traditional leather manufacturing involves several stages that can have significant environmental impacts depending on the type of tanning process employed and from where the raw hides are sourced. These stages include pre-treatment, tanning, dyeing, and finishing.
Exploring Alternative Materials
Several alternative materials can be used for leather manufacturing. One popular option is synthetic leather made from polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride. However as these are both thermoplastics, their environmental impact can be far worse than a sustainably produced natural leather. Another choice would be organic textiles, like cotton or hemp, which can undergo treatments to imitate leather's feel and visual attributes. 
Tanner Bates products are hand made, using natural materials and naturally tanned vegetable tanned leather sourced as a by-product, which after a lifetime of use, ultimately, will eventually return to nature. 
The Water-Intensive Leather Tanning Process
Leather tanning is one of the most water-intensive stages in leather production. It involves using large amounts of water and in some cases, chemicals to transform raw hides into finished leather.
However, here at Tanner Bates, we use naturally vegetable tanned leather which is produced in small batches with tree barks rather than chemicals. This is the traditional way and environmentally friendly way to produce leather – not to mention that the leather produced is of far higher quality than much of the mass produced modern chrome tanned leather. As there are no chemicals used in the tannage, the bark can then be composted for use in the gardening and landscaping industry and the water is also simply returned to nature. 

Embracing a Circular Economy

Adopting a circular economy approach to leather manufacturing can significantly reduce environmental impact. This involves reusing and recycling as much as possible, resulting in minimal waste.
The leather we use at Tanner Bates is produced using cow hides which are a by-product of the meat industry. Furthermore, the bark used during the tanning process is also a by-product of the timber industry. We are passionate about provenance and keeping our legacy light on the planet. Finally, we even source genuine vintage leather from our local Devon tannery whenever possible and repurpose these long since rejected and forgotten stirrup butts into our ever-popular Vintage Oak Bark Belt. This incredible repurposed and upcycled vintage leather is far from pristine, but every scratch and blemish tell the story of sitting in a dark corner of the tannery watching the comings and goings of daily life for over 50 years!

Common Questions About Sustainable Leather Manufacturing

There are several commonly asked questions about sustainable leather manufacturing. These include questions about the alternatives to traditional leather, the environmental impact of leather production, and the role of technology in sustainable leather manufacturing.
The rise of the sustainable handmade leather industry is evidence of the fashion industry's commitment to sustainability. As consumers demand more eco-friendly products, the industry must continue innovating and promoting sustainable practices.


Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about handmade leather.

handmade and crafted leather

What is handmade leather?

Handmade leather refers to leather items crafted by hand rather than machines or automated processes. This includes wallets, belts, shoes, bags, and accessories. Handmade leather products are often considered higher quality due to the manual care and attention to detail put into each piece.


What is leather made from?

Leather is made from the skin or hide of animals. The most commonly used types of leather are made from the hides of cows, pigs, sheep, and goats. Producing leather entails a series of stages, including eliminating hair or wool, tanning to avert decomposition, and processing to generate various leather types like suede, nubuck, or patent leather. Exotic varieties of leather can be made from the hides of unique animals like alligators, ostriches, and snakes.


Why is leather a good material?

Leather is often preferred as a material for several reasons:
1. Durability: Leather is tough and can withstand wear and tear. This makes it ideal for shoes, belts, and bags that must be used regularly.
2. Long-lasting: When properly cared for, leather items can last for years or even decades. 
3. Timeless: Leather has a timeless appeal that never goes out of style, making it a significant investment.
4. Comfortable: Leather is flexible and becomes more comfortable over time. 
5. Easy to clean: Leather can be easily cleaned with special soap or polish.
6. Natural material: Leather is a natural material that can appeal more to some people than synthetic materials.
7. Variability: Leather comes in many different types, colours, and finishes, giving many options for different looks and feels. 
However, it's important to remember that the leather industry can have a significant environmental impact, and there are ethical considerations related to using animal skins for this purpose, which is why some people prefer vegan or synthetic alternatives. It is important to be mindful of where your leather products are sourced from and how the leather is made. 


Why do people like handmade leather products?

People like handmade leather products for several reasons:
1. Quality: Handmade leather items are often higher quality than mass-produced ones. They are created with care, precision, and detailed craftsmanship that machines cannot replicate.
2. Unique: Handmade items are unique. Each one is slightly different from the next due to the natural variations in leather and the individual craftsmanship involved. 
3. Durability: Since handmade leather products are often made with high-quality materials and construction, they tend to be more durable and long-lasting.
4. Personal Touch: Handmade products often come with a personal touch. Knowing that someone put their time, effort and skill into making the product adds value.
5. Customisation: Handmade leather products can often be customised to the individual, whether through a choice of leather, colour, size, or added initials or names. 
6. Supporting Artisans: Buying handmade products often means supporting small businesses, artisans, and traditional craftsmanship.


Why is leather craft important?

Leather craft is essential for several reasons:
1. Cultural Significance: Leathercraft has a long history in many cultures worldwide, from the Native Americans to the nomadic tribes of Africa. Preserving this craft helps keep these traditional skills alive.
2. Economic Impact: Leatherworking provides income and employment opportunities to many. Especially for small businesses and artisans, it can be a primary source of livelihood.
3. Quality Products: Leathercraft produces high-quality, durable products that offer a superior alternative to mass-produced items.
4. Environmental Benefits: Handmade leather goods, when sourced and produced responsibly, can have a reduced impact on the environment compared to mass-manufactured products. 
5. Conservation of Craft: Leathercraft requires unique skills involving design, hand-eye coordination, and dedicated attention to detail. Preserving these skills is essential in an increasingly automated world.
6. Unique and Custom/Bespoke Goods: Leathercraft allows for personalisation and customisation, something that's highly valued in an era of mass production. 
7. Educational Value: Leathercraft has educational value as well, teaching patience, precision, and an appreciation for handcrafted products. It also promotes creativity and can be a satisfying hobby or profession.

hand crafter leather

Why are handmade products better?

Handmade products offer several unique benefits compared to mass-produced items:
1. Quality: Handmade goods often benefit from superior craftsmanship. Artisans take time and effort into each item, ensuring perfect detail.
2. Individuality: Every handmade item is unique, even if it's part of a series. Little variations in the design, colour, or texture make each product one-of-a-kind.
3. Customisability: Handmade items can often be personalised or customised, offering a level of specificity that mass-produced items usually don't.
4. Eco-Friendly: Handmade products are typically more environmentally friendly. They often use less energy during production and are made from sustainable or recycled materials.
5. Supporting Small Businesses: Purchasing handmade items directly supports artisans and small businesses, often contributing to local economies.
6. Durability: Handmade goods can be more durable due to the high quality of materials used and the attention to detail in their construction.
7. Time and Effort: The makers of handmade products put time, energy, and thought into each item they create, which adds sentimental value and a personal touch that mass-produced items lack. 
Despite these benefits, it's also important to note that handmade items can sometimes be more expensive and take more time to produce than machine-made items.

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