Earlier this year I made quite an important decision regarding the materials for my bags. When I started Borboleta in 2012, I didn't want to use genuine leather. Don't get me wrong, I loved leather, especially the soft, luscious kinds. But buying a bag here and there is different than producing hundreds of leather bags at a time. Being mostly a vegetarian, I always felt guilty about making my designs with leather. I believed in being cruelty-free with the products we use in daily life. Well, I always told myself that I'll be on the lookout for a leather alternative that is durable. I can't stand the leather alternative many mass brands use for bags and furniture, which is PU and PVC. They are not durable. Within 6 months the leather starts to peel off and you'll have to throw away the bags. I encourage people to think hard before they buy anything so they can keep using the products for a long time. I don't encourage this kind of fast fashion behavior, so polluting!
I'm sure you've come across something like this..
Image from here
You get the idea.
If you, like me, love to use leather and also avoid cheaper version of leather alternative, I have a few stories to tell you. My goal here on the blog is not just to promote my bags but also to share industry insights. I hope what I share will make you become a more educated buyer. I'd also love to hear your feedback and experience as well. ;)
First of all the leather tanning industry is polluting beyond belief. The process produces so much toxic waste in water. Yes, there are regulations in the western world but most of the tanning process is done elsewhere - Turkey, Pakistan, India, and China - where the rules and regulations can be hard to enforce.
Read an interesting article about this matter here.
Another kind of waste to think about is leather waste. It is unavoidable. The little marks and scratches on leather that makers have to navigate when cutting. I remember standing in front of the leather waste for my 800 units wholesale order and I was just so sad to see all this waste.
Well, I finally found a supplier with an amazing leather alternative which is made of 100% microfiber. We call it scientific leather (a Japanese innovation). When you touch it, it is buttery soft like leather and has the same texture. It is very durable (lasts more than 10 years) like leather. I even showed this scientific leather and genuine leather to my friend and he had no idea which one was genuine and which one was made in the lab. I personally find this scientific leather to be superior to leather because is so much more lightweight and it's waterproof. Plus it's 100% cruelty-free. I made a few samples using scientific leather and used them myself for a few months before I have to make a decision to switch.
The result was just amazing!!! This new amazing leather didn't compromise the look and feel of my designs, but make it better. I didn't have to worry about stain from water or force because the the surface is coated. I remember being stuck in the rain one day and walking home when it was still raining lightly. When I got home all my things in the bags were not wet and my bag wasn't stained. I knew that day I had to make a switch this kind new awesome material. Some friends and my teacher in Italy advised against making a complete switch. They said I should start introducing collections with new materials to not scare off my customers. But I knew in my heart that this is a superior material and I knew my customers are open enough to try it out.
And I was right.
I started making all my new colors in microfiber leather and I'm slowly making a switch. Even customers who only used genuine leather products are now turning to microfiber leather. And I feel better than ever about this decision.
There's also another plus side in terms of pricing. You know we have what they call vertically-integrated business model which means we design, produce and sell directly to consumers. Because we cut out the middle man, we can sell our bags at a more affordable price, without compromising on quality. Honestly, the price of the scientific leather and genuine leather is the same per square meter, but I'm able to sell the scientific leather bags at a lower price point because there is no leather waste. Because the surface of the bag is perfect, we can use every inch efficiently, resulting in us being able to pass on the saving onto our customers.
I truly believe that fashion doesn't have to hurt the makers, the animals, and the planet. As educated consumers we can make better buying decisions and together, even though not as quickly as we'd like, we can bring about changes we want to see in the world.
Here are the 4 styles that are already made with vegan (microfiber) leather.
The Lunette Bag:
The Mini Lunette Bag
The Mini Treasure Bag
The Treasure Box bag and The Demilune backpack are being made now. ;)
Sending love to you, wherever you are.