Homage to a Cow
Working with leather is an understandable conundrum for some. For me, it has been something that I have definitely questioned, but there has always been a deep, core “rightness” about it for me.
In my former handbag company, I used “vegan leather” to create the line. This was certainly a non-animal based product, but it was definitely not eco-friendly. I didn’t know this, of course, when I started to use this material.
The pebbled, sueded fabric had body, but was supple. It was a perfect fabric to create a sturdy, everyday bag with – except that it was made from PVC – Poly Vinyl Chloride.
PVC has since been shown to be toxic in its production, use and disposal. Had I known this at the time, I certainly wouldn’t have launched a product line incorporating this material. As soon as I learned of the toxicity, I immediately began the search for alternatives.
My company had a huge following with the vegan consumer. They loved that we were creating handbags that were not made of leather. No animals were affected in the production of those bags – except that they were.
I’ve written before about how the fabrication of the bags evolved after the Gulf oil spill, when I recognized that the simple fact that the fabric I was using was created with virgin petroleum - Virgin petroleum that killed thousands of animals when improperly contained. Virgin petroleum that depletes and destroys our natural resources in its production.
Soon after that recognition, I made a huge shift to a product called Cycle-PET that was made from 100% recycled soda bottles. The fabric did not begin to resemble the former one and changed the entire essence of the product line. It didn’t matter that I was risking alienating a rather large customer base by changing the whole look and feel of the line. I knew in my heart that a change had to be made and I made it, profit be possibly damned.
With that said, it is not without very considerable thought that I am now creating my line using an animal-based product, leather. Cow hide to be specific. US raised and tanned, cow hide, to be even more precise.
When I create with leather, there is an honoring, a feeling that goes beyond this lifetime. It is a feeling that comes through me, through my hands, that imbues the piece with a kind of deference.
The hides that I use are by-products of the meat industry. I would never use leather that was harvested simply for the hide. The remains of these animals are being used to create something beautiful, practical, respectful.
The meat industry in this country is not likely to cease to exist any time soon. By using by-products from this industry, it feels honoring of their lives. I completely understand that this may well be taken as a justification. But it doesn’t feel like that to me.
My being drawn to create with leather may have come from the experience of other lifetimes. Who is to know? But I do know that it feels inherently right for me, honoring the being that formerly lived in this skin.
It is with this deep, core consciousness, that I ask the hides where to cut, what to create, how I can best pay homage to their lives with what remains from them.
This all sound so “woo-woo”. Definitely. But that is where this comes from. Not justification, but inherent knowing.
As I did with my former company, I may one day find that my thinking was distorted, but for today (isn’t that all that we have?) it is with honor and respect that I create with these hides that once provided structure and protection for these animals.
Maybe one cow, one day, may look down and say, “becoming a Big Mac really sucked, but thanks for making something beautiful out of a bad situation”.