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debunking leather myths and eating my way through italy

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All too often, these familiar claims are thrown around when condemning the use of leather:

"Leather is a byproduct of the meat industry"

“Cows are killed for leather”

"Leather tanning is toxic for the environment"

"Vegan leather is more eco-friendly than leather"


Being a materials-driven designer, I grapple with the balance of creating with beautiful yet durable materials in a sustainable factor.   I have been quite outspoken on this issue, as I don’t think it’s a completely black and white answer when it comes to whether a material is eco-friendly.  

So through my Venture Fellowship at BF+DA, I’ve been provided the opportunity to participate in first person full sensory experience in the cultural context in the birthplace of vegetable-tanned leather at Pelle Vegetale Consortzio, in a tiny village called San Miniato in Tuscany. During my stay here, I will be exploring ancient techniques of this luxurious material often called 'vacchetta', which is imbued with historical and social value.  This lush agricultural region’s reputation to being connected to the land in a mindful way will be my backdrop while I immerse myself in this experience.  Hopefully finding out the truth behind those claims (and others) that are thrown around. I will be joining a hand-selected group of academics and students visiting vegetable leather tanneries to learn where the leather comes from, tour one of the most advanced water treatment systems in the world, meet other small-batch leather designers, and learn centuries-old techniques from master craftspersons from the region.

As an artisan, this invitation is obviously a bucket-list opportunity.  And I won't lie: It is also a welcome catalyst to experiment - to stretch myself in ways I don’t usually have opportunity or resources to try.  As a designer who cares about sustainability, I want to investigate further in a creative and explorative manner. and to share with you all my experience.

I would love if you’d follow along on my journey, and please ask questions by using the 'leave a comment' below. I would love to include your questions and comments in my research. I am growing weary of the hearsay and speculation in the world (and frequent conflict of opinion) between veganism and sustainability, and I want to dig deeper and share my findings with my community. 

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  • Can’t wait!

    Lisa Kesselman on

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About Crystalyn Kae

Crystalyn Kae Brennan Crystalyn is a handbag designer in Brooklyn, NY. Her sustainably chic handbags are made with vegan-friendly leather and unique vintage fabrics. Read more »


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