Clothing/Cosmetics and Animal Abuse Article from

The True 'Material Monster' In Our Wardrobes: Animal Leather

From Sascha Camilli,
December 2023

Focusing on fossil fuels in relation to plant leathers seemed to want to erase the fact that fossil fuels are used throughout the production of animal leather – for example, leather is coated in plastic to keep it from naturally degrading, which in part accounts for its longevity – but it also forgot that innovation is actually removing fossil fuel-derived ingredients from vegan leathers.

cow skin leather
Photo from Moving Animals

The recent Guardian piece ‘We are creating a material monster – the false logic of faux leather’ by Tamsin Blanchard got many things right. Overproduction and the harmful effects of fossil fuel-derived materials on the environment are in fact issues that should be high on fashion's agenda. But in its criticisms of faux leather-centric collections such as Kylie Jenner's latest KHY range, The Guardian forgot the elephant – or perhaps the cow – in the room: animal leather.

Tamsin Blanchard, known for her (excellent) work in the sustainability space, does briefly mention the impact of animal skins on the environment and the fact that vegan leathers are gaining popularity. However, the reasons for this shift are entirely glossed over. In recent years as never before, the leather industry has faced increased scrutiny.

Not only did the Pulse of Fashion Industry report find it to be the material with the highest cradle-to-gate environmental impact, but numerous undercover investigations also brought to light the treatment of the animals whose lives were lost to biker jackets, clutch bags and kitten heels.

Produced at the rate we're currently going, leather is an enormous environmental problem. Leather production has a great eutrophication impact – eutrophication is an environmental problem that sees runoff waste interfere with ecosystems by causing plant overgrowth in waterways. This disrupts the fragile systems and kills animals by affecting oxygen levels in the water.


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