The strange way leather is made.

apc gigi bootsIn a previous post, I had mentioned the horrific things that are happening at Bangladeshi leather tanneries.  I really had no idea how bad things were until I saw this segment on PBS.  It got me wondering: what does “proper” leather tanning look like?  I found this youtube video about how leather is made in the USA.  Even leather made “safely” in America is strange!  Frankly, it’s gross.  Manufacturing waste from the leather tanning process, in forms of dried up connective tissue and gray globs of fatty slime, is bought by cheap dog food companies to use as filler (yuck, I’m so glad we feed Freddy real meat and good dry food).  I’m not vegan or anti-leather, although I do admire those who do choose to be.  I do own a few cherished leather items: my APC gigi boots, half moon bag, watch, wallet, and loafers.  But after seeing this, I’m starting to evolve in this area, and will opt to purchase leather secondhand when I’m in need of replacements.  Or go “pleather” or “vegan leather”– both names don’t sit right with me.  There’s lots of snarky connotations in those terms.  What about removing the term leather altogether and replacing it with the name of the actual material.  As it terns out there’s a huge range of vegan leather and some are actually really bad for the environment and yet they all go under the same name.

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In other news, I’m out at a professional conference on psychotherapy this weekend, and among the many books promoted by the conference, was Marie Kondo’s book and Sandra Knight’s book “Get Your Sh*t Together” (which I have not read yet).  This is the first time I’m seeing books on decluttering and intentional living at a psychiatric conference.  These topics are mostly relegated to the self help arenas and popular culture.  I’m starting to see these issues trickle in, but still nobody is talking about it.  My guess is that issues like creating a tidy house can seem trivial in a field that deals with far more pressing issues like severe trauma, suicidal behaviors, debilitating psychosis, and so on.  I think though, there is a place for it, especially when your aim is to help someone develop a better sense of self and control.  Something as simple as decluttering your wardrobe can be empowering and flex a set of mental muscles that have since atrophied.

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6 Comments

  1. There is a tannery in Chicago that I try to buy from, Horween, which is really high quality stuff. But I pretty much won’t need to buy shoes for a very long time, I have my collection of high-quality leather stuff and it should last forever hypothetically. I already have boots that are 15 years old. I did give leather alternatives a chance but almost none of them have lasted. I’ve also done some hide tanning myself and it’s icky for sure, but I’ve had the skin I tanned for a long time and it looks great, would like to try more of that and even make some shoes with it at our local shoemaking school (I made my sandals there last year).

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    1. Wow, 15 years. My leather boots and bag are things I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of so hopefully they will last at least that long too… thanks for stopping by!

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  2. For a while I struggled with the idea that buying leather meant choosing cruelty while the alternative meant damaging the environment, it felt like I couldn’t win. Personally I don’t buy leather (I’m vegan) but I would buy secondhand because that’s always the better option when buying *stuff* and I look for the most ethical, environmentally friendly option whenever possible when buying new.

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    1. Yeah, often it’s just the better of two evils. When it is directly affecting poor communities in such an egregious way, like in bangladesh, it’s much easier to choose the alternative.

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  3. Yes, it’s a challenge to figure out what some vegan bags and shoes are made from – even from the more responsible companies. (Matt & Nat still doesn’t list this on half their stuff.) I try to buy canvas in the summer and fall and reclaimed fabric shoes by Insecta. I do have a few pair of Keep shoes, some canvas and some a faux nubuck which is pretty durable but I’m not even sure what they’re made out of, now that I think about it.

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