Sustainable Glossary

Where does all the leather used in fashion come from?

It’s time we talked about a delicate subject we feel very strongly about: where does all the leather used in fashion come from?

As we’re sure you can imagine, there are a whole lot of positions on the issue, and just as many truths: there are those who maintain that leather for clothing doesn’t kill any animals because it’s a waste by-product of the food industry; then there are those, like Stella McCartney, who regard leather as the main co-product of the food industry, contributing to the horrors associated with intensive animal farming. There are those who maintain that the tanning industry solves the problem of disposing of the hides of animals used for food; then there are those who say that the tanning industry has an extremely negative impact on the environment due to its highly polluting production processes.

Our stance is right there, in the middle, where there’s a conscious use of our resources, where our mission and that of many other businesses is to salvage waste from manufacturing and encourage research to find innovative products capable of reducing the environmental impacts associated with our products without detriment to their technical and aesthetic qualities.

The tanning industry

The tanning industry is the “sector of industry that produces skins and leather, recovering and enhancing a by-product of the food industry: raw animal hide from the slaughterhouse.”

Most leather used in the fashion industry comes from food industry waste. It’s a different matter when it comes to exotic skins, such as snake, python, ermine, seal, kangaroo, and crocodile: the animal is killed for its skin, which is considered the most valuable part of the animal.

Tanning originally came about as an industrial process recycling a secondary product that would otherwise end up being sent to landfill, but the steps in its production cycle are critically important, in terms of everything from energy consumption to the disposal of processing waste, through to the emission of dust and vapour into the atmosphere, and release of heavy metals into water.

But even the tanning industry, an inherently pollution-heavy process, can tap into an environmentally sustainable side.

A virtuous example: Favini

The Favini company uses leather processing waste to produce Remake, the 100% biodegradable, recyclable eco-friendly leather paper designed for quality printing and luxury packaging.

Complex processing successfully upcycles waste materials into a product of higher value.

Greenhouse gas emissions are over 25% lower in the production of Remake compared to paper with the same properties. What emissions can’t be avoided are entirely offset with Carbon Credits that Favini buys to fund activities aimed at improving the environment, capable of absorbing CO2 in the atmosphere.

The leather industry’s leftovers are currently used in the production of regenerated leather, as fertilizers, with a part ending up in landfills. Favini has developed a new treatment for leather scraps to obtain a recyclable, compostable product that can be made using traditional paper manufacturing processes.