Crafted Leather Bags and Accessories: Review and Q&A with Gusti Leather

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Gusti Leather produce beautiful leather bags and accessories in Germany and have recently launched on ASOS Marketplace. I’ve been lusting after a satchel bag for quite some time now so I was thrilled when I saw the range they offer, and at half the price of another well-known UK satchel company! Gusti kindly sent me a bag to review and answered my concerns on ethics and sustainability. I am definitely a fan of leather, but when I recently learnt that the water footprint of leather is huge, however otherwise ethically it is produced and processed, I started to have second thoughts. I’m confident that Gusti Leather is as ethical as it gets and I will be proudly using my bag as much as possible. I strongly believe that the most sustainable thing to do is to consume less, and with my Gusti bag I don’t plan on buying a new bag for a very long time indeed. If you want a well designed, beautifully crafted bag that will last for years to come I’d strongly recommend checking out their products.

The M7 satchel arrived with a small pot of leather polish to treat the material and keep it clean and supple. The leather is gorgeously soft and has a vintage look I love. Beautifully hand-crafted, this is a top quality bag and the perfect size for daily use (it fits A4 paper inside, has separate compartments and a zipped section). Gusti have a wide range of products from rucksacks and travel bags to laptop bags and jewellery. They also have a workshop in Germany offering an efficient repair service, and the opportunity to customise your own unique bag. For more information on Gusti check out the interview below.

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1. When was Gusti Leather established and what prompted the launch of the business?

Karys: The original German business, Gusti Leder was established in 2011 by my current boss, Mr. Christian Pietsch. He studied Business Studies here at the University of Rostock and opened his first small shop towards the end of his studies. The reason behind choosing to sell leather products stems from simply noticing leather products on his short holidays to India and Morocco. He began meeting with family-run production firms and created working relations which led to the direct delivery of leather bags to us here in Rostock.

Christian regularly sends new designs and ideas to the producers, in addition to making spontaneous visits to keep check that they are following regulations on fair working conditions and fair payment- this is something that we really are very strict on.

2. What’s the difference between goat hide and cow hide?

The initial difference is the animal from which the hide, or the coat, originates. However, when the leather is worked into an end-product, such as a handbag or purse for example, you can really tell the difference from the thickness of the leather. Goatskin is slightly thinner and therefore a more flexible material. Cowhide is thicker and because it doesn´t wrinkle or fold/bend so easily, it is a lot smoother.

3. How do you ensure the production process is as environmentally friendly as possible?

The vast majority of our products are tanned and dyed with vegetable based solutions- completely without the use of chemicals. The leather is dunked in a form of water-based solution containing various tree barks (for example, Mimosa bark), indigo, saffron, and poppy and left for around two weeks; it is then sun-dried to give it a lovely golden brown tone. This also adds to the natural look of each item, and makes each one unique- no two pieces of leather look the same.

4. How can you claim that your products are ethical and sustainable, when they are made of leather?

Many people will probably think that “leather” and “sustainable” or “ethical” don´t belong in the same sentence, which is completely understandable. We try to assert that our products are sustainable because we believe in the high quality of them. Even though all of our products are unique and individual- as is always the case with leather- we are proud that they are all created to the highest standards possible. When a customer purchases an item from us, we offer the guarantee that that item is well crafted and will therefore last a lifetime: this is reflected in our prices. Our items are one-off purchases and can also be seen as investments. We do not expect that our products will need to be thrown away after one-year of use, and for this reason we consider ourselves to be able to offer sustainable products.

Regarding the issue of “ethics”, all of our leather is a by-product from meat slaughter. We in no way support nor advocate the slaughter of animals purely for their fur or skin. We use the hides from animals which are slaughtered for Halal meat production, which, when you consider the amount of useable meat and the bones/innards from each one, amounts to only around 4% of the total animal.

5. What’s the best way to care for our lovely Gusti leather?

Each and every one of our products is delivered with a small pot of colourless leather balsam derived from plants, such as castor oil and rice bran. We recommend that this balm be applied to the leather product as often as required in order to boost its shine, or simply to cover any scuffs or scratches.

6. What are your plans for the future?

We are currently expanding our business into the UK, France, Spain and Italy. We already sell via eBay and Amazon to these countries, but our new website is designed to be a lot more user friendly, and the option to change between languages will make buying from us a whole lot easier, particularly for those with little German knowledge!

We are also really proud to offer Custom Made bags- the customer can choose any bag from our range and send us a sketch or photo of a design that they would like to have incorporated onto the bag. We have a team of seamstresses here in Rostock that is responsible for creating these unique, individual items. And this is something that we definitely want to push as a unique selling point in the near future.

See www.gusti-leder.de or buy at ASOS Marketplace

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Win Lingerie by RUBY and Support the Save Our Seas Campaign

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RUBY has stood the test of time, and for over a decade now has been producing gorgeous accessories and lingerie handmade in South Africa. Founded by Robyn Lidsky in 2002, RUBY is a fashion-forward independent brand with a commitment to sustainable development and environmentally-friendly business practices. The RUBY Beading Circle that hand-beads and finishes a number of their items is a fair-trade, job-creation initiative born out of Robyn’s MA thesis in Sustainable Development. The initiative employs 35 women in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, utilising traditional skills and enabling local women to have a trade that supports their families. The first project for the RUBY Beading Circle involved customising jeans and accessories for Levi’s stores. RUBY has since been featured in the finale of America’s Next Top Model, in fashion magazines and in international ads and films.

RUBY craft and sell all manner of jewellery from sterling silver pendants to lockets and feather earrings. They upcycle coins, fossils and agates to create unique, covetable pieces available at very reasonable prices and shipped worldwide through their Etsy shop (You can pick up a sterling silver heart on silk thread for less than £10). The lingerie sets are equally fabulous, handmade in Cape Town in limited quantities using imported lace and the highest quality trims available. A regular at South African Fashion Week, RUBY lingerie is pretty yet highly wearable and also features hosiery and nightwear.

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As an independent brand with sustainability at their heart, RUBY use their position to raise awareness of environmental issues. They ran an anti-fracking campaign, and are now creating awareness for marine protection via their ‘Save Our Seas’ (SOS) campaign. The images weave in mermaid mythology to introduce key, critical messages about our oceans and how human behaviour is negatively impacting on the environment. Based on the Hawaiian proverb “Care for the ocean and the ocean will care for you”, the beautiful campaign was shot by South African underwater photographer Ilse Moore, whose ethereal style sat perfectly with RUBY’s key message.

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To help promote this heart-felt message, RUBY is generously giving away 5 lingerie sets! To have a chance of winning please enter the raffle below by doing any or all of the following. 1 entry for each option, up to 4 chances to win.

follow RUBY on Twitter
• tweet about the giveway
like RUBY on Facebook
favourite the Etsy shop

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The competition closes on Sunday 16th March 2014 and winners will be notified shortly after.
Good luck!

The Winners!
Thank you to everyone to took part in the competition. The 5 lucky winners are as follows:
Judy
Jane Templeman
Christine Shelley
Joan
Debby Brown

Well done ladies! If you weren’t lucky this time keep following RUBY for future giveaways – I have insider knowledge that one is coming up soon!

www.ruby.co.za

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Ethical Leather Bags & Accessories by Yorkshire-Based Magpie Accessories

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Unwrapping my beautifully packaged new leather camera strap from Magpie Accessories, I was in awe of how soft the leather was at first touch. The violet camera strap was the perfect accessory to jazz up my SLR, attaching elegantly with a buckle fastening. Magpie Accessories manufacture high-quality leather bags and accessories from their studio in Yorkshire, England. They are a luxury British brand with ethics and sustainability at their heart.

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Established by Kathryn Sillince in 2008 with the help of a Princes Trust loan and Arts Council grant, Magpie Accessories officially launched in 2010. Kathryn started conceptualising the brand in 2006, when as a student of the London College of Fashion, she began researching leather suppliers and material processes for making leather goods. This can be a total minefield. The processing of leather is very labour intensive for people and planet, and it is difficult as a consumer to know which brands to trust with their leather sourcing. With this in mind, Kathryn wanted to go about it the right way, ensuring that every aspect of her business was as ethical as possible and building a brand that consumers could trust.

This led to a range of handcrafted goods produced in the finest locally sourced leather. Each leather hide comes from an organically fed animal and is a by-product of the food industry. The hides are sourced from local farms around the UK, not shipped halfway around the world, and each piece is handcrafted in the Yorkshire based studio. As the label grows they are committed to keeping manufacturing in the UK, supporting British industry and keeping their carbon footprint low. Magpie produce men’s and women’s bags, everything from clutches to travel bags, as well as laptop and smartphone sleeves, guitar straps, camera straps, passport holders and glasses cases. They pride themselves on the ability to work directly with customers and offer personalised embossing on many of their products.

In addition to using the best quality leathers, the linings of all products are made with organic fair trade cottons, using water-based eco-friendly inks for prints. All orders are beautifully gift-wrapped in eco-paper. I thoroughly enjoyed trying out my camera strap. Not only does it look smart and sophisticated, but it is made to the highest quality and feels entirely safe and secure at holding my camera. In addition to the plain straps, they offer fun character designs including a ‘Gerald Giraffe’ and ‘Finlay Frog’. I’ve definitely got my eye on their glorious messenger bags too, perfect for work and play.

You can get your own handcrafted leather loveliness online at www.magpieaccessories.com or at one of their stockists.

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Recent Guest Posts

I’ve had a few guest posts published recently –

Giving UK Ethical Fashion the Celebrity Treatment – La Leaf

La Leaf is a Berlin-based ethical fashion site. I was approached by the lovely Sarah, co-founder and editor of the site, to write about an aspect of ethical fashion from my UK-based perspective. Drawing on my recent trip to Zandra’s Rhodes penthouse for the launch of her latest collaborative collection with People Tree, I wrote about the rise of the celebrity in eco-fashion and what we can learn from the food industry.

Crossing Disciplines – From Fashion Undergrad to Geography PhD – PhD2Published

PhD2Published was set up in 2010 by Charlotte Frost as a resource for helping early career researchers to get their first academic book published. It now provides all sorts of advice for PhD students and ECRs. I wrote this blog to share my experiences of moving into social science from a strong background in fashion.

PhD Publishing Strategies – Which Journal? – Geographypostgrads.com

Geographypostgrads.com is the University of Southampton Geography blog for our own postgrads to contribute too and which I edit. I wrote this post to explain my thoughts on academic publishing and the strategy I’m using to help myself move across to sociology.

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The British Library Eco Fashion Film & Business Resources

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I love Atelier Tammam. Founded by ex-Central St Martins graduate Lucy Tammam, the small traditional couture atelier (fashion studio and showroom) based in the heart of Bloomsbury, central London specialise in hand crafted, handmade, high quality bridal and evening wear. They produce stunning pieces, making use of sustainable materials including vegetarian peace silks and recycled vintage laces and fabrics.

The British Library, the world’s largest library, has unveiled a new online film which aims to inspire ethical fashion designers to use their resources to create something new. In the film, Lucy speaks about how the resources in the British Library provide inspiration for her creations and the support offered by the Library has enabled her to further her business. Check out the film to see how Lucy Tammam takes inspiration from The British Library’s Asian and African collection to create one of her dresses, and uses their Business and IP Centre to help run her business.

To coincide with the ‘Made with’ film series The British Library will unveil their Spring Festival 2014 giving emerging and established fashion designers the chance to get inspiration for their next collection. The festival is FREE and runs from 27-31 March. On 28th March 2014, Amber Jane Butchart, fashion historian, writer, and lecturer at London College of Fashion, will explore the glitz and glamour of Jazz Age Hollywood and the costumes that took London by storm (tickets available here). If you’re thinking of setting up your own fashion label The British Library’s Business & IP Centre in St Pancras, has an excellent track record in supporting entrepreneurs and SMEs. Free talks coming up include ‘Introducing Social Media for Small Business’ Wednesday 19th March and ‘Intellectual property for Creatives’ Thursday, 27th March.

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MAKEoneGOOD Plant 20 Trees for Every T-Shirt Sold

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I love trees, and I like fashion, so I love the story behind MAKEoneGOOD. MAKEoneGOOD is a new brand, launched by two graduates. They wanted to create a business which provides a product people really want to buy, whilst making a positive difference to the world. The team describe it as

“a platform and brand that offers trendy and fashionable product to the general public, but at the same time, gives the possibility to every customer to MAKE even ONE small contribution for the greater GOOD.”

For every product sold, MAKEoneGOOD plant 20 trees through WeForest – a worldwide foundation that plants trees all over the world. They call it PLANTEES. They just sell t-shirts at the moment, but they are pretty bold t-shirts. This is certainly not an ethical brand that anyone could describe as hippie; rather, their designs are modern and colourful with an urban/street flavour.

The t-shirts are 100% made in UK by a technology called ‘sublimation printing’. The water-based ink is environmentally friendly and the designs themselves are in astonishing high resolution. This form of printing helps the bright colours remain intact after washing. The care labels are printed on the inside of the garment, to avoid those awkward labels. Finally, the packaging that they use is made from recycled paper.

The tees are unisex and feature everything from pop art to religious imagery. They sell for £49, but you can currently grab a bargain on their website with some t-shirts on sale at £36.99. These tees are the perfect gift because they have a story attached – something for the recipient and something to give back to the planet. Furthermore, because they are unfitted t-shirts it is easy to get someone the right size.

My favourite is the Flowers tee!

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