If you already had the chance of reading our manifesto, if you know our philosophy or if you already have seen our products face-to-face, you’d know that OA keeps things quite clear regarding the materials that we use in our production.
If you just got here, we’d like to tell you that in OA we only use materials and resources that meet certain strict criteria or that are guaranteed and certified by trust seals.
We’d like to point out that when we talk about vegetable tanned, we don’t mean that it is vegan or vegetal leather, as people used to ask, but we talk about the process used to get this material.
If you don’t know exactly what vegetable tanned leather is or you don’t know the difference regarding the industrial tanning with chromium, keep reading this article in which we talk deeper about the nature of both processes and their outcomes.
Vegetable tanned process
The vegetable tanned leather that we use in OA is of animal origin and comes from the wastes of food industry. The raison why we use animal leather instead of vegetal leather is a different story of which we’ll talk in another post…
100% vegetable tanned leather process is the one that uses extracts coming from plants and avoid the use of chemical products such as chromium or other heavy metals. It’s a natural process made in an artisanal way.
Our vegetable flower leather, made in Spain, uses extracts from plants like quebracho and mimosa; our nappa leather that we bring from Germany takes them from vegetables like tara and valonia.
However, chromium and heavy metals tanned processes use chemical elements such as acids and chromium salts. The generation of waste and the contamination level of this kind of tanning are extremely high.
It’s a less expensive and much faster process, because it can take a day, while vegetable tanning can take between one or two months.
What are the characteristics of both kind of leather?
When the leather is submitted to a 100% vegetable tanning, the natural pores of the leather remain opened, so you will be able to see and feel them. Being a natural process that respects the natural qualities of leather, each piece take a special feature, so that there’s no two alike. In addition, this kind of leather will last forever.
On the contrary, the pores disappear with chromium tanning, the result being a straight and firm that looks more artificial or synthetic. When this kind of leather is dyed, colors get bright and uniform.
Ins and outs of vegetable tanned leather
Which are the ins and outs of vegetable tanned leather?
- 100% natural process that respects the natural qualities of leather. That is, a biodegradable product that can be recycled in a natural way.
- Traditional method with a lower negative impact on the environment.
- There are not two alike; each leather get certain features that make it unique because its variations, scars and, in short, its own personality acquired over time. For us, this is a plus,because the exclusivity of each leather gives value to each bag. Regarding the possible ‘decrease’,this is not a problem for us given that it can be used for other issues.
- The quality and durability of this kind of leather is unrivaled.
- The touch, softness and smell of the leather that we use in OA have no competition.
- Vegetable tanned leather is breathable and hypoallergenic. The lack of allergenic properties is especially important for sensitive people, babies and children.
If we have to mention any disadvantage, we can underline three outs:
- The delay in the tanning process, which can take between one or two months.
- The fact of being artisanal and the quality of its outcome are some of the factors that make the cost of the product to be higher.
Ins and outs of chromium tanned leather
Many brands use chromium tanned leather as it is cheaper, mass produced and has a much faster process than the traditional vegetable tanning process. However, it is one of the most toxic processes in the entire fashion supply chain.
For that reason, we find it extremely difficult to think that speed and a much more economic result are possible advantages if we look at the infinite outs that we find:
- The decrease in quality and durability of leather.
- The terrible environmental impact of the chemical products used and the high level of pollution of cities and entire communities, where it is no longer possible to enjoy (by right) a full and healthy life.
- The most dangerous part of the leather tanning process is chromium. In humans, chromium causes a huge number of ailments and illnesses depending on how it is absorbed. Sadly, more than 90% of the leather in the world is tanned with chromium.
As a fact: 50 million liters of water from highly toxic wastes are generated by tanneries in Kanpur, India. There are more than 300 tanneries in which workers are exposed to harmful chemicals, while the waste generated pollutes the natural water sources carrying the disease through water to all inhabitants.
The environmental and human health effects that occur when chrome-filled waste is dumped into regional water systems are terrifying. We are talking about respiratory, liver, kidney and skin problems, infections, infertility, and even birth defects as a result of contamination from local tanneries.
Studies show that workers of leather tannery are at a much higher risk of cancer, between 20% -50%.
It is vital and it is in our hands. We have to minimize the negative environmental impact and be part of the change in fashion industry.
Now...if you have read this far, would you like to carry a chromium tanned leather bag in contact with your skin?
For us, the answer is clear and it’s the reason why we chose to make our collection with vegetable tanned leather in the most responsible way.
You can be a part of this too. Do you want to join us?