La Pell - How green is this local leather design project?

La Pell leather packaging design

Leather packaging design by Sebastian Vecchio and Guillem Ferran.

Leather might not seem the most treehugger-liked material, but like with any material, it depends how you use it, where it comes from and what processes it has undergone. A few craftsmen and designers in Catalonia, Spain, got together and created some beautiful pieces to promote certain local trades (in this case the leather production) to prevent them from disappearing in the region due to the pressure of cheaper products from China or elsewhere. The project is called La Pell, which means the skin and the leather in Catalan. The local production and material sourcing is essential to this project, and guarantees its quality and responsibility. Leather products include objects from packaging for bottles and cameras to toys, confetti (leather off-cuts) and puffs. (more images below)

La Pell leather toy design

Leather finger-toys by Maria Teresa Llado and Ricard Vila. Leather piggy-bank by Òscar Espinós Amposta and Guillem Ferran.

The cities of Vic and Igualada are two of the main leather production centres left in Catalonia. Not only is the leather made here, but it also originates from the local farms and slaughterhouses where cows, pigs and sheep are brought to for meat. Since the Spaniards are not exactly big on a meat-free diet, there are plenty of skins that would be thrown out if not turned into leather. An option that is much better than disposing of the skins, which can cause problems to the subsoil, according to Guillem Ferran, La Pell project coordinator. None of the leather used in this project comes from protected or hunted animals.

La Pell leather product design

Leather confetti off-cuts by Sandra Noemí Quilez López and Eumografic. Cups for better occasions by Raul Querol and Pau Sardiner.

An effort has been made to use mostly vegetable tanned leathers, and avoid chemicals. However, there is no certification available, so we have to take the craftsmen's words for it. The light-coloured skins are the non-contaminating ones, since they do not contain heavy metals. Moreover, the tanneries in Vic and Igualada have their own water recycling plants to guarantee that no chemicals go into the subsoil, unlike in tanneries we have seen in Morocco for example.

It is clear that local craft projects like this one should be supported, to control how the leather is produced. A proper labelling system would be helpful, to create trust and awareness of products made from non-toxic leather, which in the end is a fully renewable and biodegradable material. And as long as we eat meat, we will have skins to turn into leather products. So before crossing out leather as an eco-friendly material, we need to analise its alternatives and think about what to do with the skins of already dead animals. As Collin wrote in his article about whether leather is a treehugger-friendly material, "replacing a leather product with a vinyl one won't be doing anyone any good, so for those who simply must have it, we recommend finding it repurposed or second-hand or otherwise reused, rather than buying a virgin product, and if you absolutely, positively have to have new leather, vegetable-tanned is the only way to go". ::La Pell
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