09 March, 2011

Leather wha wha?

This is sort of a random post for me to do, as I never get super personal on my blog. I always think of this blog as a platform to store my design and fashion finds from the interwebs, but today I feel pretty compelled to let y’all know what I am thinking (cue Scooby Doo’s ‘Ru Roh’):

I am a girly girl and I always have been. This means it is in my DNA to love a good pair of  heels and to swoon over a quilted Chanel bag.

But I am also a bit of a hippie at heart (OK a lot a bit…). And as of a few years ago (pretty much when I started yoga), I became a vegetarian. I was 21 and I never knew what it meant for an animal to be killed for my food until I heard a hippie/yoga friend discussing how right before an animal dies, it gets filled with anxiety and when you eat that animal, you eat that anxiety. Sort of crazy, I know. But for some reason that really really hit home with me. For me, I stopped eating animals because I felt that I had enough anxiety in my life (post-college blues, man) and I never really craved meat anyway (I get my ideals from my mother, a true hippie). I was a terrible vegetarian. My life consisted of enough coffee to wire a village and Luna bars. Let’s just say, I am much better about it now without going to far into the depths of my insanity/dumbness.

So for a few years, I was all like “I can’t, I’m a vegetarian” like a freaking medal of honor. “How do you get your protein”?, Idiots would say. Geez. That is a whole other subject as well. And as I judged them for their cruel treatment of meat eating, I would laugh all the way to the mall. Where I would mindlessly buy a pair of shoes…or a leather handbag and think nothing of it. I know, I said I was dumb, OK!

And then it hit me. Two Summers ago, during my Textiles class, our teacher showed us a video on how leather was made and the differences of grades, where it comes from, etc. She showed us this to be educated if a client let’s say asks for a chair covered in the hide of a cow with the  patina’d brand on it (it’s that country-chic-Texan look). And little did I know what was coming up next…my breakfast. I got so emotional and physically ill, I had to leave the room. It was sort of embarrassing…well I guess it would have been embarrassing if I hadn’t made such an ass out of myself during my undergrad years…again a story for another time.

I vowed then (and still do) to NEVER spec leather for ANYTHING in my design career! HOW COULD WE BE DOING THIS TO ANIMALS? I think maybe in my mind I thought that leather was taken off of the hides of animals already dead? Like they were not killed for their skin? As if they were just dead cows in a field and companies just sort of were taking walks through pastures and spotted a dead cow and took the hide…like reclaimed wood from trees that have ALREADY fallen down. Why would I think that companies gave a rat’s ass (whew!) about animals? Again, I am slower than most. But sometimes it takes a punch in the face to realize exactly what is going on…especially for dense little ladies like myself.

I thought of my sweet little kitten, who was only about 8 weeks old at the time. I know we don’t cover sofas in kitten fur, but really…what’s the difference? Now, when I turn projects into that teacher, all of my boards have my fake design company’s logo: Vegan Designs is written over a clipart lotus flower. I know, clever right? If you want to know more about the process of leather “extraction”, go here (via Peta.org). Warning, although it is very interesting, it is heart wrenching and may cause physical hiccups, if you will. But this isn’t new. I know many of us read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair… and that was what from 1906 (thanks Wikipedia, I would have never guessed that date correctly..how did I get through school without you?!?!). And don’t even get me started on Hermes supposedly owning their own alligator farms in Australia. What? I get to pay $25,000+ for my OWN bag AND a few alligators? Yes, it takes 3-4 to make ONE bag. I’m TERRIBLE at math and I know that’s probably not a good thing.

Gosh, where was I? I get pretty heated. As we all should. If  I can quote my favorite movie ever (well sort of favorite), Across the Universe “I am radical mother, you should be radical, we should all be radical” (and scene). Oh yes, back to fashion.

So I have made sort of a deal with myself…and I think with the animal kingdom as well. I am making a conscious effort to not buy leather goods. GASP. I realize that right  now my Seychelles T-Strap heels are leather, as is my bright pink J.Crew skinny belt…and my favorite bag of all time…the bag that pretty much took out a year of savings.. my quilted black Marc Jacobs handbag. I love that thing. I have had it for exactly 3 years (a girl remembers a purchase like that) and it has never let me down, until I start thinking about the harm that it caused a creature of the universe (HIPPIE, you scream). And then there is that problem of really wanting a cr0ss-body bag. You all know by now that is the shape of the season right? WELL IT IS! And I am a trendy gal with the mind of the American consumer that all of those big corporations love. “Tell her its trendy, tell her she NEEDS to have it right now for a happy life”. Sorry again, I digress. I am not saying I don’t need one, I do. I am not vowing to quit fashion, I am vowing to quit killing animals to wear them. And in 2011, its just a choice…and its not that hard actually. Check out these amazing bags by designers that feel the same way: Stella McCartney (my favorite designer ever), and Matt and Nat (also awesome, click here to read their mission statement).  I mean look at these GORGEOUS bags. No leather. No animals. Just excellent design and oh-so trendy. Seriously, Stella McCartney like is the epitome of awesome. 

These bags are so cute:


Stella McCartney Braided Faux Vachetta Shoulder Bag


Matt and Nat Elm bag


Matt and Nat Hendrix clutch (who doesn’t love a good Ikat!?!")

In conclusion, (see 4th grade English teacher, I can write a book report!) I am not asking everyone to give up leather or meat eating. I no longer feel the way I do about vegetarianism or being really radical actually. Just want y’all to know where things come from. Think about how angry everyone got when the movie Blood Diamond came out…or Food, Inc. If anything, I ask that you put some thought into where your time and money are going. Your purchases just tell the manufacturers that there is a need, a demand and so they will continue to supply these goods.

Also, this does not mean that I am throwing out all of my leather goods. It is so difficult because leather can be totally gorgeous, a true sign of luxury. And,that would somehow mean ripping out the interior of my busted vehicle. See, that’s just wasteful and silliness…I’m just asking for a bit of mindfulness.

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