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-leather.co.uk or buy at ASOS Marketplace

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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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