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What Is Eco Friendly Leather?

What Is Eco Friendly Leather?

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Have you already heard about eco friendly leather? I interviewed deepmello founder Anne-Christin Bansleben and NINE TO FIVE founder Sandra Schittkowski about the positive impact of sustainable leather. Both brands are focused on eco friendly leather. NINE TO FIVE already designed a shoe with the rhubarb leather by deepmello. Scroll through to get to know more about the brands and the innovative leather types.

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An interview with founder Anne-Christin Bansleben.

What makes your leather products eco-friendly?

In several years of research, we have developed a method to tanned leather without using environmental and health-damaging chrome. Instead we are using a special extract of rhubarb roots and implemented together with partners to finished high quality leather. We name it rhabarberleder® (rhubarb leather).
It is important for us that the whole process of leather production takes place in Germany to 100%. This includes cultivating the rhubarb plants, the extract recovery, the origin of the hides, the tanning and leather finishing.
Our unique rhubarb leather is very soft, has a delicate fragrance remains breathable and is also suitable for allergy sufferers.

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How have you developed rhubarb leather?

We as a team (originally we are all scientists) has been working together for several years in the same research group under the same issue “rhubarb”. Our approach was at the beginning of a purely scientific nature. We knew theoretically that rhubarb roots contain functional compounds, which might be able to use for tanning leather.
During the research, we noticed that there is truly a need to find new alternatives to substitute the conventional environmental and health-damaging chrome tanning. Instead of chromium salts that are harmful to the environment, carcinogenic and allergenic, a special extract of rhubarb roots is used for tanning the hides. After several years of research our idea became a product – rhabarberleder®.

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Coat: Skall Studio, Jeans: Mud Jeans, Shoes: Nine to Five, Bag: deepmello

antonia leoni eco fashion blogger deepmello bag mochni

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You have many great products in your new collection. Which one is your favorite?

In our opinion, we can only be successful if the final product is beside the high quality material also convincing in terms of design and functionality. Therefore, these parameters also are our main focus.
For us it is a matter of course to work ecologically and ethically correct. We see this at the end just yet as an additional finishing touch.
That’s why we have all-time favorites in our collection. One of our classics is the BICOLOR SHOPPER – straight looking bag with also inside rhabarberleder®. And another classic product is the LEATHER BLAZER JACKET – a very soft and lightweight leather jacket that fits very well to a black dress but also to jeans.

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An interview with founder Sandra Schittkowski.

Your leather products are free from chromium. But what impact would it have for the
nature to tan leather with chromium?

The chromium salts used in tanneries are often not handled in a safe manner. In
countries with low labour costs and equally low safety regulations, workers are
handling the tanning agents without protection, so they irritate the skin and can
eventually cause cancer. Many of the tanneries in said countries do not filter their
wastewater so these irritating substances are led into rivers and eventually poison
humans, wildlife and flora.
Even if chromium salts are handled with protection and inside a safe factory
environment, it can turn into the dangerous chromium VI when the leather is in use
by the end consumer, e.g. under heat impact. People with chrome allergies also suffer
from skin irritations. These are only some of the reasons we are not making use of
this tanning method.

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What else makes your leather shoes and bags eco friendly?

We use only un-dyed and vegetable tanned leather for the linings of the shoes wich
are soft and allow customers to even wear the shoes barefoot without exposing
themselves to chemicals. We are sourcing all our components, including metals,
linings, soles etc. from Europe and within short distances from the manufacturing
enterprises where possible. So we can keep distances short and avoid shipping
emissions. As well we support European manufacturing plants threatened by a shift of
the producing fashion and textile industry to Asia.

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See Also

What kind of leather skin could be the most sustainable in the future?

One of the most sustainable materials we use at the moment is salmon skin from
organically bred salmon for human consumption. Supplied by a tannery in South
Germany this can also be sourced nationally and is therefore an even better product.
The ideal leather of the future would be from organically raised livestock or
sustainably sourced and abundant wildlife. It would be vegetable tanned and dyed
and treated without any toxic chemicals in responsible tanneries with excellent
filtering and closed loop technologies. Also it would have to be 100% traceable from
animal to leather good which is, unfortunately, still a big issue. We hope to be
working with such a leather soon!

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Photos: Antonia Leoni; Foot Model: Azaria

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