To research eco leather, sustainable design and further develop the 'Art of Shoemaking'

Italy
Netherlands
Spain
United Kingdom
The Arts
To research eco leather, sustainable design and further develop the 'Art of Shoemaking' featured image

In 2018 I visited five countries (Europe and the UK) to gain a deeper understanding about the challenges around the environmental impact of the leather and footwear industry. By then global awareness of the toxicity of this industry helped to focus on the need for change while exploring potential sustainable ways to keep humanity supplied with footwear and other products related to the fashion industry.


The fashion industry is one of the most profitable and exploitative industries and as such investment into ‘green alternatives’ is considered a necessity to ensure growth within the capitalist model. However, current values around economic growth over ecological balance appear to result in ‘green washing’ and using sustainability as a marketing tool.


Over the last two decades I have experienced many uncomfortable moments when questioning my own integrity using leather. I have reduced my meat consumption by 100% while still making leather shoes. I have been looking for alternatives to leather ever since.


My approach was twofold: For a thorough understanding about the leather industry from its very beginnings I chose to focus on Europe and the UK ,meeting with experts and visiting places housing expansive collections telling the story of leather.


For an introduction into ‘sustainable eco leather’ I visited established industry players, start-ups and exhibitions.


Findings:


  • To date (2018 and still valid) there is no such thing as Eco leather or ‘sustainable’ leather. Leather is a product with a long lifespan. In comparison, most of the man-made alternatives end in landfills after short time in circulation.


  • However, individuals and companies are working on solutions to reduce pollution and toxicity.


  • Circular Economy is the business model for a sustainable future. To be truly sustainable, humans need to become less of consumers and more of conscious users and re-users.


  • Recent global events have again highlighted the precariousness of human existence and the need to find meaningful ways to coexist on a fragile planet.


And now, in 2022…


The climate crisis and the pandemic brought into sharp focus the need to act quickly and more decisively and have further highlighted the lack of Australian onshore manufacturing and sustainable supply chains.


Over the last years I have been exploring ways to work collaboratively on a concept of ‘wearable shoe art’ to embrace reduced consumption and to promote longevity.


My current design is a combined work of Indigenous, Australian and European creatives.

Fellow

Marlene Kranz

Marlene Kranz

NT
2017

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