Wednesday, August 10, 2005

What's the deal with leather?

I've heard the argument a million times while evesdropping in the dressing room:


the benevolent hypocrite
: Ohmigod Mandy, how can you even think about buying that rabbit fur scarf??
the skeptic friend: I don't see what the big deal is -- I mean, you wear leather after all. What's the difference?
the benevolent hypocrite: (stammers) well..umm...yeah, but leather is, like, just what they take from cows after they already killed them for their meat, so it's ok....right?

Although not shockingly articulate, these girls bring up an interesting point. I know many vegetarians who wear leather...and, dammit, it can be really cute as a trim on many types of clothing. AND I just came across the coolest pair of earrings made from leather strips.

BUT, if you are trying not to contribute to industries that hurt animals, must you avoid leather? If it's just a by-product of the meat industry, does that mean we are not adding to the demand for more dead cows?

Well, here's what these guys have to say:

"Today's meat industry is not sustainable on its own, and it relies on skin sales to remain profitable. The skin of a slaughtered animal accounts for 55 percent of the value of the products of that animal other than meat. Leather isn't a harmless slaughterhouse byproduct. The meat industry relies on skin sales to stay in business."


Another website claims that:

"Leather is more than just a byproduct of the meat industry; it's a manufactured good essential to the meat trade, so buying leather directly supports the meat industry. The animals on the leather industry hit list include cow, deer, sheep, snake, alligator, crocodile, ostrich, lizard, kangaroo, and toad. The more desirable soft and supple leathers come from baby animals-calves, lambs and even unborn calves."


After doing some more research from less biased sources, I found that leather does, in fact, contribute to at least 50% of the meat industry's profits. I hate to break the hearts of all you leather-donning vegetarians, but wearing leather is the equivalent to eating beef (economically speaking, that is).

This news was quite a blow for me, as I have done extensive searches for vegetarian shoes and have found little that could be described as "fashion-forward" (or even fashion-neutral, really...)

But here are a few decent options:

Asics has some decently cute athletic shoes.
If you're a dancer, or just into rocking ballet slippers on the street, Capezio has some cute canvas options.
Chinese Laundry has a pretty wide selection of shoes made from altnernative materials like wood, satin, and tweed. They're pretty cute, but could stand to be a bit more of-the-moment fashion. Here are some options I like:
Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Of course there's always good old Converse
If you're looking on the higher-end side of things, check out Kate Spade . (Or Jack Spade for the guys) There are really nice satin shoes, and you can search for bags according to material. Here are some HOT satin shoes:
Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Steve Madden has many non-leather women's options.
Oh, and Stella McCartney never uses animal products in any of her clothing, including her shoes.

There's got to be more out there, and I'm on the prowl for new hot designers making shoes out of alternative materials. I see it as a challenge to be more creative-- leather is the most obvious material when making shoes, but for the same reason, it's kind of a cop-out. Maybe this will encourage designers to revolutionize shoe-fashion. If you know of any designers like this, please tell us about it in the comment section.

Stay tuned for the next blog: for all you DIY designers, tips and ideas for creating animal-friendly clothing both without and WITH leather.