Leather comes from the tanned raw hides of animals, most commonly cows, goats, or lamb. The tanning process is essential – it preserves and strengthens the hides as well as making them more supple and pliable for the garment. The two most common methods of tanning are vegetable tanning and chrome tanning. At Filippa K, all of our leather is tanned within the EU and is a byproduct of existing food production.
Vegetable tanning is organic and chemical-free, uses bark from mimosa trees for treatment, and is the original method of treating animal hides. Compared to chrome tanning it is better for the environment, creates a result that is biodegradable, and produces more natural-looking colours. However, it also requires greater craftsmanship, is more costly, and takes much longer.
Chrome tanning is the most common form of tanning, using chromium III. This method is faster and less expensive than vegetable tanning, and it creates a result that is softer, more flexible, and stronger. The result however is not biodegradable, nor does it age as gracefully as vegetable tanned leather.Chromium III is naturally occurring and is not considered to have a negative effect on humans or the environment. Under certain conditions chromium III can change to chromium VI, which is a dangerous form that occurs when heating resides. We have long-standing partners in the EU with certified factories that abide by strict REACH regulations to make sure they are controlling the chrome III and recovering it properly. This protects working conditions and the environment, and ensures that chromium VIdoes not occur.
Although the production of leather can be problematic, the fabric has many benefits and is long-lasting when cared for properly. We use it primarily in accessories such as bags and shoes thanks to its durable longevity, and occasionally design leather pant and skirt styles. We strive to use the more environmentally-friendly method of vegetable tanning wherever possible, and increase our use of it each season.
*Leather that has been vegetable tanned is classed as a more sustainable material. You can find this type of leather in our Alice Sneaker, the Soft Sport Hiker Boot, and more in our upcoming collections.
We’ve developed a new fully traceable supply chain to source leather from the meat production industry in Sweden. Starting as a way to source Swedish wool, we realised that we can also utilise this supply chain for leather garments as well. This material is organic, and vegetable tanned without chemicals at Kero Leathers in Swedish Lapland – using bark from the mimosa tree. The local supply chain ensures good animal welfare and a reduced carbon footprint. Learn more about our Swedish Leather initiative here.