Josefin Liljeqvist: Changing the way we source leather

Josefin Liljeqvist is an award-winning Scandinavian luxury fashion tech brand. The business model uses a technological solution to improve traceability in the leather industry, working on the premise of sustainability and improved animal protection. The company developed their own software to trace the leather supply chain, allowing customers greater insight into and connection to the way in which their product was made. An initial luxury leather menswear shoe (ANDREW) has been designed and launched to consumers in order to test and showcase this software. ANDREW is a luxury menswear shoe (certainly not cheap) but Josefin’s ultimate goal is not to just be a fashion brand but actually change the leather industry to make it more sustainable. And we all know a key way to be more sustainable is to buy far fewer, better quality things.

There are a range of environmental problems associated with leather production, many of these overlapping with the meat industry more generally. While some people (i.e. vegetarians and vegans) choose to shun leather altogether, Josefin Liljeqvist is targeting a different market on the premise that if we are to continue raising animals for meat and leather (a byproduct) then we can at least work to do it better.

The limited edition ANDREW shoe is produced from fully traceable leather, tanned in an eco-tannery in Sweden and an expert tannery in Italy. Made to order and crafted by Stefano Bemer, Josefin has plans to launch two more shoe styles next year. Meanwhile, she hopes the system she has developed to track the leather supply chains can be adopted widely across the industry in Sweden and worldwide.

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Parliament launched a review into the environmental impact of the fast fashion industry: here’s why it won’t work

The UK fashion industry contributes more than £28 billion to national GDP but not without consequences. A new Parliamentary inquiry is examining the social and environmental impact of the huge fast fashion industry, focusing on the environmental footprint of clothing throughout its lifecycle. The review was launched in June and is taking comments and evidence from the public until September 2018. It is chaired by Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee. Speaking on behalf of the committee, Mary said: “Our inquiry will look at how the fashion industry can remodel itself to be both thriving and sustainable.”

This raises a few questions for me:
• Does the industry want to remodel itself and if so, to what extent?
• How much remodelling are we talking about here? Isn’t fast fashion inherently unsustainable?
• Could/should a Parliamentary inquiry lead to more Government enforced regulation?

The inquiry will examine the carbon, resource use and water footprint of clothing throughout its lifecycle. It will look at how clothes can be recycled, and waste and pollution reduced. This is all because it’s obvious that circulating clothing through our wardrobes at the speed to which fast fashion retailers would like means a whole lot of resources, wastage and pollution.

So why not address the consumption model itself? Changes to address singular problems will not lead to significant benefits without addressing the economic system surrounding fast fashion and consumer culture. A focus on decreasing the environmental impact of fast fashion is only part of the issue, the bigger problem is consumer habits. Stores like H&M and New Look are doing good things to help make their impact less bad but ultimately, they still want to sell a lot of clothes. You’ve seen those in-store recycling bins in H&M, TKMaxx and M&S? This works to divert guilt – ours and theirs – but really sends a message that consumers can keep on consuming so long as they donate their unwanted clothes to charity (there are problems with this in itself as shipping our cast-offs to low income countries has been found to harm local employment and manufacturing industries).

Don’t get me wrong, the review is welcome and every change helps, but if we’re really talking about doing things differently an environmental impact audit isn’t the starting point. It’s the fast fashion model that needs to change and this is very, very difficult when the UK is run on a stifling model of capitalism. Success is based on economic impact – we need to earn a wage and we need to consume. Government doesn’t want to interfere with that if it upsets business. The fashion industry itself is a huge employer and source of creative and service (not manufacturing) export. Various strands need to come together to change the system. Some of these are:

• Education, education, education. I’ve written about this before and not just for fashion students but for all students there should be a focus on sustainability, CSR and alternative measures of growth incorporated into learning at all levels. Normalising a different way of working and living will filter into their own consumption habits as well as their work, and it’s already happening.
• Designers need to take more responsibility for resource use. Waste should be a massive taboo; closed loop production should be prioritised.
• Cultural change needs to come from the media, both mainstream and social media, to continue to shift the focus to experiences rather than material consumption and possession. While advertising works as it does this is unlikely to lead to a complete shift.

Sustainability is about viewing a problem holistically, something that needs to be taken into consideration with this Parliamentary review. Fast fashion is inherently unsustainable unless we think outside the box, like changing the look of our clothes digitally or designing pieces that are ‘throw-away’ in a different sense by being completely biodegradable. And why not?

Want to have your say? The Committee invites submissions by 5pm on Monday, 3 September 2018.

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How Vegan Footwear is Revolutionizing the Fashion Industry

Guest post from The Lux Authority

When shopping for high fashion accessories, fashionistas have often sought apparel made from leather, suede, silk, and fur. The sleek feel, softness, and fit of leather made it highly desirable in the fashion world. The functionality of leather and fur can provide warmth without bulkiness for athletic types and nature lovers. Silk has been coveted for hundreds of years due to its smoothness on the skin and lustre to the eye, but unfortunately, the fashion industry’s gain is the animal world’s loss. In the past, for a majority of the fashion conscious, there was just nothing else like the fit and feel of genuine animal products. Fortunately, that has changed. At the request of the growing numbers of vegans and others adopting a more sustainable lifestyle, more designers are creating beautiful, stylish, and kinder alternatives to clothing made at the cost of animals and the environment.

As an increasing number of people are choosing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, there is a greater need for vegan options for fashionable clothing. For many years, artificial leather, suede, and fur were available, but they didn’t have the same look or feel as the real thing. Appearances are important, making it difficult to be able to be socially and environmentally responsible while looking great in haute couture. For far too long, it was nearly impossible to find cute, cruelty-free shoes. But now, vegan footwear is revolutionizing the fashion industry.

The vegan footwear brand, VEERAH, knows what it means to reduce and reuse. Why wastefully buy several different pairs of shoes, when you can make one pair look and function like many? Each pair of shoes purchased comes with a coordinating accessory such as a strap, tassel, brooch, or even fringe to change the style of the shoe from plain to fancy and casual to dressy. VEERAH straps can serve double-duty as fashionable bracelets. Their new long-lasting, durable shoe line, Appeel, is made using recycled apple skins to create a fabric more breathable than leather to lead the way in the slow fashion movement.

VEERAH Shoe Set

Bourgeois Boheme also creates beautiful shoes from plant based products. Many of this British company’s high-end, luxury shoes are made from Pinatex, a textile derived from pineapple leaf fibers that remain and otherwise become waste after the pineapples have been harvested. Even legendary Italian fashion house Salvatore Ferragamo has been influenced by the movement of using plant-based alternatives to more traditional fabrics. Famous for creating leather substitutes due to the lack of availability of the real thing during wartime, the company has released a collection in collaboration with Orange Fiber, a company specializing in making textiles from citrus skin. These textiles can replace lace, silk, and satin.

Another company making leather substitutes is Mycoworks. Using mycelium found on the underside of mushrooms, Mycoworks creates a fabric with the appearance and performance of leather. Not only can this be useful in creating vegan footwear, but similar technology can be used to make fabric that is thin enough for other clothing such as, dresses and jackets. The fabric is naturally antimicrobial and compostable making it eco friendly and sustainable in addition to being vegan.

These innovations in vegan products that were initially inspired by dreams of cute vegan footwear have led many celebrities and designers to move to an animal-free fashion philosophy. A growing list of vegan celebrities, including Zooey Deschanel and Jessica Chastian, have chosen to walk the red carpet in animal-free couture. Both Natalie Portman and Anne Hathaway have chosen to be photographed wearing shoes from vegan footwear brand Beyond Skin. Stella McCartney has led the way for many other brands, such as MIAKODA and Cri de Couer, to eliminate animal products from their lines and adopt a more eco-friendly and sustainable approach to fashion.

Beyond Skin Martha Shoe

An increase in the number of people who wish to live responsible, sustainable lifestyles combined with a desire to look good while doing it has led to a revolution in the fashion industry. Leading the way is the innovative vegan footwear industry. In an attempt to get the benefits of textiles made from animal products without the cruelty, vegan shoes just might help save the world.

Kelsey is the Managing Editor at The Lux Authority and is trying to balance both her budget and her credit card balance. She likes to live lavish and treat herself when the opportunity allows it. She loves the newest tech, old cars, the smell of rich mahogany, and leather-bound books as well! When she isn’t working, Kelsey is an avid academic, artist, stargazer, blogger, and yoga enthusiast.

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Ethical Spring Fashions by Deborah Campbell Atelier

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I met Deborah, of Deborah Campbell Atelier, in Winchester Discovery Centre a couple of months ago; a fitting place to hear about the designer’s innovative use of sustainable fibres and abstract art inspired prints. A wealth of experience in clothes manufacturing and trend forecasting led to the formation of Deborah Campbell Atelier as a women’s ethical fashion brand, with Deborah now working towards her third collection. The pieces, which are vibrant yet classic enough to wear season after season, are all made in Britain using sustainable materials such as recycled fabric from plastic bottles and British wool. Deborah’s SS16 collection is the largest yet, offering a complete capsule wardrobe for work and play.

Deborah started her fashion career working for a manufacturing company at a time when much of the production industry remained based in the UK. She went on to establish her own manufacturing company and with business partners supplied the likes of high street favourites Miss Selfridge and Oasis. From here, she shifted focus to branding and consultancy, establishing another business called Style Industries London. Through Style Industries London Deborah offers forecasting, design and sourcing consultancy to other fashion brands that want to adopt a sustainable approach, “gently nodding toward key trends that have longevity”.

Deborah founded her own ethical fashion brand because she “didn’t enjoy the endless spiral of consumption”. She knew that some high street brands and retailers were becoming more responsible, but that it wasn’t enough without working under a totally different system. For Deborah, sustainability isn’t a trend, but something that must become part of how we live. With her background it’s no surprise that Deborah’s managed to create a fashion product that’s both desirable and sustainable.

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The dress shown here is made from recycled plastic bottles. Processed through a mechanical rather than chemical process in Italy by textile manufacturer Saluzzo Yarns (formerly Filature Miroglio), the fibre known as ‘Newlife’ was also used by Georgio Armani to create an eco-friendly gown for Livia Firth at the 2012 Golden Globe Awards. The fabric is then digitally printed, far better for the environment than the dirtier screen-printing process. The result is a beautiful, top quality fabric that holds its shape for Deborah’s shift dresses and smart box blouses. In addition, Deborah sources British wool from Ireland and Scotland to produce classic chunky jumpers made in Leicester.

Lifestyle & Family Photography

The SS16 collection has just launched on the website ready for pre-order. Although you’ll have to wait until next year for dresses, you can cosy up in one of the classic fisherman’s sweaters right now. The Guernsey Jumper (£99) is a heritage piece inspired by the original Guernsey, first designed for the channel Island fisherman to help brave the elements back in the 1500. Shoppers also have the chance to support the Phoenix Foundation by buying the ‘Bee the Change’ organic cotton tee. 20% of the profit from the sale of this t-shirt goes to The Phoenix Foundation who provide much needed burns equipment to children caught up in war zones.

Deborah Campbell Atelier is a label to watch and you can get a slice of the action with an exclusive discount code – 20% off all products using code EMW15DCA until the 31st December. Browse and buy online www.deborahcampbellatelier.com

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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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A Week in the Life of Ethical Dressing

Dear people who ask me what ethical fashion is,

To coincide with London Fashion Week I decided to do a week in the life of ethical dressing to show that there are many ways to take part in ethical fashion. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and it can be fashionable (even if you might not approve of my personal style). London Fashion Week showcases the next season trends but the most sustainable thing to do is dress true to yourself. Buy things that you love and will wear again and again. There are lots of ways to dress ethically, for example:

• Buying second-hand or vintage clothes
• Buying fair trade, ethically made clothes from ethical brands
• Buying organic cotton clothing
• Buying locally produced clothing
• Making your own clothes
• Upcycling/recycling
• You can still shop on the high street, but buy good quality that you will keep for years.

AVOID CHEAP, FAST FASHION.

I signed up to What I Wore Today to post my outfits last week and will continue to do so! Here’s the round-up. There’s no fancy photography here, I do apologise.

The particularly observant amongst you will notice I got my hair cut 🙂

Day 1: No Nasties organic cotton tee and upcycled denim shorts (jeans given to me by my sister which were too tight so I chopped the legs off)
Day 1

Day 2: Vintage M&S dress bought from Oxfam, Urban Outfitters Urban Renewal upcycled man’s shirt (taken from other sister who didn’t wear it), charity shop belt
day 2 eco outfit
m&s vintage label

Day 3: Organic cotton Edun dress. Had it for years and just keep wearing it.
Edun dress

Day 4: John Smedley organic cotton, undyed, made in England sweater, charity shop Topshop trouser
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Day 5: Vintage Chelsea Girl dress (altered to fit), Banana Republic charity shop wool cardigan (had a small hole in it I stitched up, make-do-and-mend!)
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Day 6: People Tree fair trade, organic cotton Peter Jensen Bear Sweatshirt, Monkee Genes organic cotton, fair trade skinny jeans
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I wore these for a couple of days too. Shoes in the pictures are Clarks and Barratts – buy quality shoes which last. iPhone – yeah that’s not so ethical, but allows me to work!

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