I wonder why people are so keen to buy natural leather. On the one hand leather products are everywhere, and sometimes it is difficult to find their non-leather counterparts, but on the other hand, natural leather is considered exclusive. High-end car’s interiors, handbags and furniture are often associated with natural leather.
Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi and that Donna
Situation looks similar in the world of fashion. For many people decent bags or shoes must be made of natural leather. In the popular high street chains we’d get both natural leather and leatherette products, but it’s really not easy to find good non-leather winter boots or a fancy bag.
I’m the most interested in how the luxury goods sector creates trends. Channel, Dior, Fendi – these bags will usually be leather. Sometimes animals’ skin seems to be almost a fetish when in the world of desirable handbags. For example Hermes uses hides of three crocodiles to produce one handbag, recently a media scandal occurred when videos showing crocodile farms and the way of killing animals were published. Interestingly, the most well-known material used by Louis Vuitton, Monogram Canvas, introduced by the company in 1896 is made of cotton. Coated cotton canvas are appreciated for the durability that was necessary to survive bumpy trips in horse-driven carriages. Sadly, most of bags made of Monogram Canvas have cowhide leather trimmings and leather handles. Also, many other Louis Vuitton products are fully made of natural calf’s or goat’s skin.
It’s possible to find vegan models of Givenchy and Marc Jacobs bags, but there are extremely rare. I know about only one widely known high-fashion designer who doesn’t use natural leather: Stella McCartney makes a statement of not using products of animal origin in her collections.
Leather Car Interior
An interior of Rolls Royce Phantom requires nine hides and a supplier of hides was recommended to them by Fendi. The company boasts about the fact they their bulls are grazed in high attitude, so there are no mosquito bites marks on their skin. In Rolls Royce “no request is left unexplored,”, they’ve already matched the colour of the upholstery in the car to the colour of the clients’ lipstick or a dog’s fur. The client can customize almost everything in the vehicle, so it seems that the vegan version of the car is feasible. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any information if any vegan model was actually produced.
For sure we know that customers of Jaguar Land Rover will not get a vegan car. The company offers only leather interior. In the automotive industry usually from a certain price range a leather upholstery comes as a standard. For example, BMW uses SensaTec up to certain range of cars, and then natural leather comes as standard and it’s not always possible to choose a replacement, it is similar in Mercedes.
Sometimes manufacturers offer leatherette seats, but the rest of the upholstery is leather. Cars which interiors can be totally vegan are the basic versions of Toyota Prius hybrid, BMW 3 Series and Volkswagen Jetta. However, if the the one chooses fully equipped version, it’s impossible to avoid leather.
Paul McCartney has a hybrid Lexus limousine with a completely vegan finish, although normally the company does not offer such an option in this model.
Luckily, there are some great examples in the automotive industry. Some models of Porsche have steering wheel trimmed in Alcantara, the same material used in the interiors of Lamborghini (Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera) and Aston Martin. Also, what makes me really happy it that the innovative Tesla has introduced and been promoting a fully vegan car.
The Luxury of Leather
Luxurious smell of natural leather? This smell of (often toxic) chemicals that must be used to stop natural decay process always makes me sick and I will never understand how people are willing to pay more for something like this.
Luxury goods market often creates trends and I would expect some level of social responsibility from this sector. Let’s hope that more brands will follow good examples of Tesla or Stella McCartney and ethical will become fashionable.