Design March 2019 thoughts about Leather

I was at Design March in Reykjavik at the end of March. The feature event is Design Talks, a full day of presentation that relate in some way to the overall theme of the event. This year the theme was “The Only Way Is Up” and much of the discussion revolved around how design process, discovery and innovation can be used to solve many of the big problems we face, particularly in sustainability in terms of the planet.

There is much discussion about Bio Leathers. Innovations include products from Modern Meadow in Brooklyn and Piñatex, a vegan leather made from pineapple. These may be solutions for the future, but I am still concerned with using leather that already exists today. One theme that kept coming up during the talks was to consider designs/concepts in terms of what has come before, what is there today and what can be in the future. In terms of leather, it is important to recognize the primal and primitive connection we have to leather in our history as humans.

As you likely know, I believe we should use every possible part of any animal we have killed for any purpose. I strive to use imperfect hides or remnant leather when I make my shoes. Even this practice leaves smaller bits of unused leather and that bothers me. Recently I found a solution – weaving the small bits into “fabric” to use as vamps. Combining the connection with leather and an available production process, I hope to celebrate and honor existing leather to the fullest.

A bonus – woven leathers are one of the key trends for spring shoes. How fortuitous to be in tune with zeitgeist! The downside – weaving leather is going to take some time…. In the end, the project will yield truly unique eco-friendly designs that will conform to the foot and last a very long time. Slow fashion at it’s best.

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