The fashion industry is starting to become more and more transparent, even more so thanks to Fashion Revolution, but there is a certain part of the industry that has always been overlooked. Leather. Leather is one of the key materials used in fashion, especially luxury fashion, but it is often overlooked more than others.
In recent years, Peta had exposed the cruel long-distance journeys the cows have to go on to even get from the farms to the slaughterhouse in the first place. Making leather is not an easy process, it has a lot of different steps, making it hard for brands to know whether their products can be traced back to the live export trade or not. The way the leather industry stands, the best outcome for a brand working with leather is that it can be traced back to the slaughterhouse directly, however this tends to be a very rare occasion. When this isn’t the case for brands, they can find out how their leather is processed, and they can start to take action against this and start using less harmful chemicals that are often used in the tanning process. The concerning thing is that if a brand cannot trace anything at all, then they can’t even attempt raise concern over how the cows are treated when they are alive and don’t know anything.
Leonardo Bonanni created a platform called Sourcemap, the platform developed technology that could map the supply chain information, which includes animal welfare practices in those areas as well as zero deforestation commitments. It has always been unclear to what the actual extent of how much live transport is used in the leather industry, but estimates suggest that it could be up to two billion animals every year. The footwear side of the industry uses the most leather and is worth $80 billion and is constantly growing. The National Wildlife Federation has previously worked with Gucci on creating a leather certification project, which also suggests that the US, Australia, France and Italy collectively transport over $1 billion per year worth of live animals.
If Peta is right, that would mean animals are forced to endure long journeys via ships and trucks around the world to be slaughtered. This isn’t a brand-new problem, this has been going on for years, however, has significantly been on the rise. In the past they have uncovered a lot, they made a discovery of dog and cat leather, to crammed ships with broken legs and dead animals in their graves at sea. However, the growing leather industry in Turkey is growing and becoming a major supplier for the fashion industry. A finished and semi-finished leather product is now part of a multi-million-dollar export trade for the Turkish economy, with Italy being one of the key players in the market.
With way the fashion industry operates, leather is not going anywhere. However, if we made leather traceable, then that could lead to a more ethical leather industry.