Living eco fashion week runway

Published on May 8th, 2013 | by Talancia Pea

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Animal-Free Fashions: Five Reasons to Choose Alternatives to Summer Leather

eco fashion week runway

Writer’s Note: The topics discussed in this post depict the ugly realities of the fashion industry. The content may not be appropriate for younger audiences. Reader discretion is advised.

Each new season brings about its own set of fashion trends. Some become classic styles, while others are only short-lived crazes. As of lately cutting-edge, modern designers are creating clothing which blurs our typical ideas of how garments should be constructed and worn, like adding soft, feminine laces to winter looks and leather to summer ones.

I understand your fashion sense is an extension of your personality and style, but “summer leather” is one trend that has me scratching my head in confusion. Besides the obvious reason of leather sticking to you in very uncomfortable ways as it gets warmer, I’ll give you five more reasons to reconsider this trend and still look your best this season.

Five Reasons to be a “Compassionate” Fashionista

  1. Don’t Dress to Kill: Under no circumstance do I condone hurting and/or killing animals for the sake of being “on trend” or having a popular look. Cows, pigs and kangaroos are some of the animals that lose their lives so their hides can be made into clothing. In the United States alone, animals are subjected to living in overcrowded factory farms, as well castration, dehorning, branding and tail docking all without painkillers. Your leather shorts, dresses and/or accessories are not worth sentencing an innocent creature to a lifetime of suffering.
  1. Leather Production Hurts the Environment: As consumers continue to buy leather products, farmers clear forests to provide more grazing pastures for their herds using toxic pesticides and fertilizers. Tanneries use immense amounts of water, energy and hazardous chemicals like mineral salts, formaldehyde, and cyanide-based oils, dyes and finishes to turn animal skins into leather—otherwise a leather bag will become compost. Wastewater and greenhouse gases from these facilities are then released into the environment to further harm natural resources, wildlife and people.
  1. Increased Risk of Illness and Outbreaks: People living near or working at tanneries have greater risk of many illnesses including skin diseases and/or respiratory ailments from exposure to toxic chemicals used to process and dye leather, according to the Human Rights Watch. In 2011 environmental groups sued the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for not enforcing stricter regulations regarding the high doses of antibiotics used on industrial farms. The groups learned common household insects were transmitting life-threatening bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and E-Coli from farms that use excessive amounts of antibiotics to treat and speed the growth of their livestock.
  1. You Could be Wearing “Man’s Best Friend”: People for the Ethical Treatments of Animals’ (PETA) investigators estimates nearly 2 million dogs and cats to date have been slain for their hides in China, the world’s largest exporter of animal skins. Since leather is rarely labeled where or from whom it comes from, consumers receive little to no information about the origins of their purchases.
  1. animal-free fashion at eco fashion weekBe an Eco-Chic Trendsetter: From leather-growing laboratories to Fashion Week runways, activists are working tirelessly to design and create stylish animal-free handbags, shoes and more from all-natural materials like organic cotton, cork and bark cloth. These alternatives provide the same flare and durability of the “real thing” without harming innocent animals, the environment or people.

Just as we’ve made progress in fighting for bans against animal testing, we have the power to transform the leather industry by choosing to buy animal-free fashions! Take a look at PETA’s Cruelty-Free Shopping Guide to support brands committed to a safer and trendy future.

Image credits: Jason Hargrove via photopin cc; Jason Hargrove via photopin cc



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About the Author

Sustainable Fashion Blogger since 2008 with work featured in magazines and newspapers, among other publications. Find her on .



11 Responses to Animal-Free Fashions: Five Reasons to Choose Alternatives to Summer Leather

  1. Martin Ricker says:

    Dear Talancia,
    I think that before you go publishing articles such as this one you need to get your facts in order and present a less one-sided piece. There is a group in the leather industry known as the Leather Working Group leatherworkinggroup.com who would with major retailers and brands continuously work to reduce the environmental footprint of leather which is a waste product of the meat industry. Leather stacks-up well environmentally compared with other textiles such as cotton and fossil fuel based materials.
    The leather industry also supports greater animal welfare and husbandry as well as peoples rights to eat meat.
    Leather is a sustainable material which nowadays is designed to be fashionable, breathable and comfortable. Demand for leather and leather products has never been higher.

  2. Talancia Pea says:

    Martin,
    Thanks for your feedback on this post as well as sharing with us information about the Leather Working Group. I applaud the efforts of the group’s members to minimalize the harmful and hurtful effects of the leather industry on animals, people and the environment.
    Nevertheless, the topics discussed in this post reflect the ugly truths of the leather business. I hope one day in the future both sides of this issue can work together to create a truly sustainable product without the use of toxic chemicals, overprocessing and most importantly, sacraficing an animal’s life for the sake of fashion. Thanks!

    • Dietrich Tegtmeyer says:

      Dear Talancia,
      Martin is 100 % right, in what he is saying.
      I do not think, that your generalization is the right way to go. It is absolutely misleading for a consumer and it is not fair for the approximately more than 95 % of the leather industry, which is doing their best in order to produce leather in a sustainable way; and if you do it right, leather is the ultimate sustainable material for many consumer goods such as shoe and many other applications. Please do some research also in this direction …
      I also would like to make a comment regarding chemicals: sustainable leather manufacturing also includes the right choice of chemicals, an appropriate handling of such, and the insurance, that remaining chemicals in the leather are safe for a consumer and treated effluents are harmless for the environment.
      Most substances/chemicals, regardless if naturally sourced or synthetically manufactured, can be harmful at some point of time; it is all a matter of exposer!
      The best example is NaCl, is it good or is it bad?
      Did you try to eat more than a tea spoon with one shot?
      Did you try to drink deionized water?
      I wouldn’t recommand.

  3. Rob says:

    As long as we eat beef, we’ll wear leather.
    That being said, I appreciate the info given above and truthfully, I’d really be interested in seeing this “bark cloth” in person!

  4. Talancia Pea says:

    Thanks everyone for further adding to this discussion. I am by no means an expert on this topic so all of your input helps to enhance this discussion. With that being said, every website cited in this post is from credible sources with years of investigative research. These are the generalized and harsh realities occurring all around the world, including the United States, India and China, just to name a few places. I welcome anyone to share credible websites to groups or agencies working to make leather a more sustainable product for us all.

  5. Corey says:

    Talancia,

    Thanks for the information! I would consider myself the general public and in no way do I feel I have been mislead. I appreciate factual information that comes from credible sources. I admit I am the owner of a few leather pieces, but now just as I seek to know more about where my food comes from I also need to know more about where my leather comes from. The only way I can see someone saying anything negative about this post is if they have something to profit in the leather industry. I look forward to reading more post from you in the future.

  6. Rick LaTouch says:

    First, I must say that negative feedback about this post, if related to inaccurate information, is essential to having an intelligent discussion. That said….

    While it is true that there are tanners around the world that do not abide by industy best practices, there are very many that do. Here are a few points of interest:
    According to the USDA, approximately 500,000 to 600,000 cattle are slaughtered in the US every week, and about 3X that amount of hogs – all for the meat. None of these animals are bred, raised or slaughtered for the hides. Many of the hides are tanned at the meat packer facility under stringent US Federal & State regulations pertaining to processing, waste, health & safety etc. If everyone stopped using leather tomorrow these animals would still be raised & slaughtered exactly as they are today. And one wonders what would become of the 2.5 million raw hides every week, at what impact & cost – Landfill? Incineration?? Dog chew toys??? When leather is tanned correctly it is a valid (and probably the oldest) of reycling activities.

    I commend those that trace their leather to credible sources as they do exist (see the Leather Working Group as mentioned above), but please do not paint the entire leather industry with one broad brush. There are many reputible tanners leading the industry in sound environmental practice.
    Rick L.

  7. Talancia Pea says:

    Rick,
    As a journalist, I have a responsibility to give our readers fact-based, honest and compelling content, and in no way is the information included in this post “inaccurate”. It may be different than your own personal beliefs, but it is not fictional; I wish it was. I appreciate you sharing the efforts of the Leather Working Group (LWG), which is located in the United Kingdom, not in the United States as your statistics support. I hope to learn more about the LWG in the near future and how their approaches may be shared abroad.

    It is NOT the intent of this post to convince readers not to wear leather. Rather, I hope they will read this post and begin to make more informed choices. Most importantly, I wish the number of animals killed solely for their hides will be lessened if consumers buy leather alternatives. How can anyone justify cats and dogs losing their lives so their hides and fur can be made into fashionable products like shoes, jackets, handbags, etc.? Thanks again for sharing!

  8. Dietrich Tegtmeyer says:

    Now I’m completely lost, Talancia:
    Your title says: Five Reasons to Choose Alternatives to Summer Leather, and now you are saying, it “is NOT the intent of this post to convince readers not to wear leather.”

    Dear Corey; but it is not right to say, “the only way I can see someone saying anything negative about this post is if they have something to profit in the leather industry”. Unfortunately it has become a big big business to sell negative and threatening stories. Due to the freedom of media public information is very often not the right source for the truth. Please take your time to search for the truth.
    One additional comment regarding meat: I respect every vegetarian, this is an acknowledgable attitude. Often people forget, that diary products such as cheese and milk also come from animals, which get slaugthered afterwards.
    Eating some meat (1 gr proteine per kg body weight per day) reasonable balanced with vitamins and veg is still from a scientifically point of view the most healthy food. This is not very much meat, unfortunately too many people consume much more. However, if 8 billion people (and everyone should have the same right on this planet) do eat these 60-80 g per day as well as eat some cheese and drink some milk you come up with such huge slaugthery rates as we already have today and as Rick has mentioned.

    Thanks to the leather industry, who turn a huge potential waste scenario (all the hides) into a highly valueable, sustainable product.

  9. Pingback: Feelgood Style | Sustainable fashion reporting, organic beauty tips, DIY projects + tutorials, + natural product reviews.

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