Last updated on December 13th, 2023 at 11:31 pm
Leather has been used for clothing and shelter since time immemorial. In modern times, it’s a secondary product of the huge meat industry, and the leather industry makes over $100 million in profit every year. With so much money involved, there is obviously a focus on profits and a lack of concern for the vulnerable (animals as well as people). To put it simply, leather production is not ethical in the vast, overwhelming majority of cases.
Then what is ethical leather? From the aspect of environmental health, animal welfare and human rights, some basic ethical red lines should not be crossed. Factory farming and the inhumane treatment of animals for their hides is a huge and definite NO. Fair treatment of workers, artisans, and employees is a fundamental requirement (workers in the leather and meat industry experience severe mental anguish due to the nature of their work). So is concern for, and actions taken to protect, the environmental health of the local ecosystem (leather tanning can massively impact the local ecosystem).
Ethical leather is leather that has been produced sustainably (small-scale, free range) and responsibly (humane, under good conditions). No one process is completely ethical, but all the brands we cover are open about their sourcing and manufacturing, and also acknowledge the challenges they face. Plus, they show respect to the animals that provide the material that they work with. In this post, we also talk about leather that is obtained from animals that are already dead (they died naturally, at the end of a full life), and secondhand leather items. We cover recycled leather in another post, apart from tips on how to buy ethical leather. Also, are leather shoes sustainable?
- Ethical Leather Brands
- Ethical Leather Suppliers
- Ethical Leather Jacket
- Ethical Leather Shoes
- Ethical Leather Bags
- Leather Standards and Certifications
- This post was about ethical leather
Ethical Leather Brands
1 // Able Clothing
Able Clothing is a Nashville-based ethical leather brand that is dedicated to empowering women. The company was founded in 2010 and is committed to using ethically-sourced leather and sustainable manufacturing methods.
Able sources its leather from Leather Working Group certified tanneries. This means that the leather used by the company is produced using sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices. Additionally, the company works with artisanal leather craftsmen, providing them with fair wages and job training to improve their livelihoods.
The leather products offered by Able Clothing range from handbags and wallets to shoes and accessories. The company’s commitment to ethical manufacturing practices ensures that each item is made with care and attention to detail.
Able is also dedicated to empowering women. The company provides job opportunities for women who have experienced poverty and trafficking, giving them a chance to rebuild their lives and gain financial independence.
2 // Ashya
Ashya is a luxury leather brand founded in 2017 by Ashley Cimone and Moya Annece. The brand’s philosophy is centered around the values of sustainability, ethical manufacturing, and cultural preservation. Their mission is to create products that are not only beautiful but also contribute positively to the world.
Ashya’s products are made from high-quality leather sourced from tanneries that meet strict environmental and ethical standards. The brand also prioritizes sustainable production methods, including vegetable tanning and using recycled materials for packaging.
Ashya’s collections include handbags, belts, and accessories, each with its own distinct style and cultural influence. In addition to creating beautiful products, Ashya is committed to promoting social and environmental responsibility. The brand works with artisans from marginalized communities, providing fair wages and supporting traditional craftsmanship. They also donate a portion of their profits to organizations that promote sustainability and cultural preservation.
3 // Darzah
Darzah is a really cool non-profit that works on empowering marginalized individuals in Palestine. Darzah is a member of the Fair Trade Federation, which means that they treat their employees very well. They pay them fairly, provide a safe working environment, and really value their contributions. Darzah is actually part of a bigger project called Child’s Cup Full, which focuses on empowering women economically.
Darzah’s products are seriously gorgeous! Darzah combines beautiful stitching techniques with long-lasting leather to create some of the most unique and high-quality products out there. Not only are they beautiful, but they’re also made with care and attention to detail.
4 // Haiti Made
Haiti Made is an ethical leather brand that is committed to empowering Haitian artisans and creating sustainable economic opportunities in Haiti. The company was founded by Joycelyn and Jeremy Cowan, who saw an opportunity to combine their passion for ethical fashion with their desire to make a positive impact in Haiti.
Haiti Made sources its leather from local Haitian farmers and tanneries that meet strict environmental and ethical standards. The brand’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond its sourcing practices, as it also uses recycled materials for packaging and strives to minimize waste in its production process.
The leather products offered by Haiti Made include handbags, wallets, and accessories, all of which are handmade by skilled Haitian artisans. Each product is unique and combines traditional Haitian craftsmanship with contemporary design.
In addition to its commitment to ethical manufacturing and sustainability, Haiti Made is also dedicated to creating job opportunities for Haitian artisans and supporting local communities. The company provides training and fair wages for its workers, and a portion of its profits go towards supporting education and community development programs in Haiti.
5 // Khaore
Khaore is an ethical leather brand that is committed to sustainable and responsible manufacturing practices. The company sources its leather from LWG-certified tanneries and works with local artisans to create high-quality leather products.
Khaore’s products include handbags, wallets, belts, and other leather accessories. Each item is designed with simplicity and functionality in mind, combining clean lines with durable materials.
In addition to its focus on sustainable leather sourcing, Khaore also incorporates recycled materials into its production process and seeks to minimize waste wherever possible. The brand also works with local artisans, providing them with fair wages and job training to improve their livelihoods.
Khaore’s commitment to ethical manufacturing practices extends beyond its own production process, as the brand also partners with NGOs and social enterprises to support environmental and social causes. By purchasing a Khaore product, customers can feel good knowing that they are supporting a brand that is dedicated to making a positive impact on the world.
Lazarus Artisan Goods is an ethical leather brand that is dedicated to creating high-quality leather products while also making a positive impact on the world. The company sources its leather from small-scale farmers and tanneries in Haiti, ensuring that its production process is both sustainable and socially responsible.
Lazarus Artisan Goods’ products include leather bags, wallets, and accessories, all of which are handmade by skilled artisans in Haiti. In addition to its focus on ethical manufacturing practices, Lazarus Artisan Goods is also committed to creating job opportunities and supporting economic development in Haiti. The brand partners with local nonprofits to provide job training and fair wages for its workers, and a portion of its profits go towards supporting community development programs in Haiti.
7 // Mlouye
Mlouye (pronounced “MLOO-yay”) is an ethical leather brand that is committed to creating timeless, high-quality leather products. The company sources its leather from LWG-certified tanneries. Their products include handbags, purses, and other leather accessories, all of which are designed with a minimalist aesthetic and a focus on functionality.
Mlouye is also all about transparency. They provide detailed information about their production process and materials sourcing on their website, and encourage customers to ask questions and learn more about the products they are purchasing.
8 // Nisolo
Nisolo is a really cool company that makes high quality leather goods using ethical and fair trade practices. They’re also a certified B Corp that creates jobs for skilled shoemakers in Peru and Mexico that helps support their families and communities.
Nisolo also uses waste disposal systems that are better for the environment. They use leather byproducts from the meat industry, and even do some carbon offsetting. The best part? Nisolo’s leather goods are designed to last a lifetime! As all good quality products should.
9 // Parker Clay
Founded in 2013 by Ian and Brittany Bentley, Parker Clay’s mission is to create sustainable job opportunities and empower women in Ethiopia, where they source their materials and manufacture their products (they offer a variety of leather goods and accessories, from totes and backpacks to wallets and keychains).
The company’s principles are centered around ethical and sustainable practices. They use environmentally friendly vegetable-tanned leather and hand-spun Ethiopian cotton to create high-quality leather goods and accessories that are made to last. Parker Clay is also committed to fair labor practices, providing fair wages and benefits for their employees.
In addition, the company partners with local organizations to provide job training and employment opportunities for women in Ethiopia, helping them support themselves and their families. In fact, the company is proud to say that 100% of their employees are women.
10 // Silent Goods
Silent Goods is a unique ethical leather brand that is dedicated to sourcing its materials from animals that have died of natural causes or accidents. The brand’s principles are centered around sustainability and animal welfare, ensuring that their products have a minimal impact on the environment.
The leather used in Silent Goods’ products is sourced from small-scale farmers in Italy who raise their animals in free-range environments. They also use vegetable-tanned leather, a process that uses natural ingredients instead of harsh chemicals, making it more environmentally friendly.
Silent Goods offers a range of high-quality leather goods, from backpacks and tote bags to wallets and cardholders. Each product is carefully crafted by skilled artisans who share the brand’s commitment to sustainability and ethical practices.
Ethical Leather Suppliers
Can leather be ethically sourced? What about when the cows are treated well (kept in a free range situation or open fields), and are not raised just for their hides? These types of sources are considered to be ethical. Also, leather that isn’t a by-product of the beef industry is also thought to be ethical. Any leather that is sourced in a sustainable, responsible way is considered to be ethical.
MacCase sources their leather ethically from India. Cows in India are considered to be sacred by most people, and according to MacCase, “The cows spend their productive lives giving milk. Once their milk-giving days are over, they are put out to pasture to live out their days. Once they pass, their hides become available.” In other words, the cow hides are only used after the cow’s life has ended naturally.
Ethical leather sourcing also comes to Europe from Brazil, like what Livia Firth used in her ethical collection for Marks & Spencer.
Other ethical sources include local, smaller farms and tanneries (such as Tanner Bates’ sources), where the animals have been treated well throughout their lives.
Obviously, leather cannot be cruelty-free as things stand.
Ethical Leather Jacket
The best option is to buy a secondhand leather jacket from a vintage store. It isn’t using virgin material, and it wouldn’t end up in the landfill if you “rescued” it. Leather is a perfectly good material, and good leather care can make your jacket (or bags, or shoes) last for years, if not decades. Check out these pre-loved jackets (and just remove that thrift store smell from leather jackets before wearing them!):
Ethical Leather Shoes
Brands that make and sell ethical leather shoes – with ethical sourcing, manufacturing, and retail – are hard to identify, and you never know if/when some part of their supply chain ethics gets ignored in favor of the bottomline. But secondhand leather shoes? They’re ethical!
Ethical Leather Bags
Leather Standards and Certifications
There is no authoritative sustainable leather standard, unfortunately, but these labels will point you in the right direction:
- Leather Working Group. Assess the environmental compliance of leather
- Trase. Online tool developed by the Stockholm Environment Institute and Global Canopy to track supply chains against deforestation
- EU Ecolabel
- Rainforest Alliance
This post was about ethical leather
Of course, leather is not a necessity – unless you live in an extremely cold place, and need leather jackets and boots to stay alive. And even then, buying one leather item that lasts you forever is preferable to buying synthetic (plastic-derived) faux leather items that will disintegrate within a couple of years, and, worse, will not biodegrade. We’re part of nature, and there is nothing wrong with needing leather to help survive in harsh conditions. However, it’s when we start exploiting animals in order to make profits that it starts becoming unethical.
Sadly, fast fashion turbocharged the demand for leather wallets, handbags and shoes. By some accounts, the leather industry needs to slaughter 430m cows annually by 2025. That is…so completely unnecessary.
If you want to use ethical leather (as a last resort), then opt for second hand leather from thrift stores, OR choose leather manufacturers who obtain their leather from already dead animals. Absent these options, just keep away from leather, and opt for any number of brilliant, practical items from Patagonia’s Worn Wear store!
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NOTE: All brand photographs belong to the respective brands/businesses.