Project JUST’s latest Just Approved™ list showcases brands that are not afraid to be different
If you’ve seen The True Cost, you’ll know that the leather industry is a great pollutant and dangerous to the planet and its people. That’s why it’s so refreshing that Project JUST has come up with its own list of curated brands that sell handbags and leather-based products, which is available on its website.
The three brands featured by Project JUST fall under its Just Approved™ list, and this list of handbags and leather brands was published online in late October (the next Just Approved™ list comes out in December, so stay tuned!). As Project JUST describes it, Just Approved™ is “a series of guides to help you discover the best fashion companies and brands to shop”. For more information on the criteria used to select the brands, visit http://projectjust.com/justapproved/.
Now, on to the brands. Here’s the list of handbags and leather goods brands curated by Project JUST:
O My Bag
Price range: US$65 and above
According to Project JUST, the Sheong Shi Tannery which O My Bag works with sources leather locally from less than 100 km away and only from cows that died of old age, illness or as a by-product of the local halal industry.
In addition, O My Bag works with World Fair Trade Organization suppliers. “They visit their suppliers 2x a year, and also shared the names of all their suppliers with us,” Project JUST said on their website.
Here’s Project JUST’s comments on O My Bag’s environmental impact: “The tannery they use, Sheong Shi, seems to be trying to avoid chemicals – the leather takes 8 weeks to tan because they don’t use heavy chemicals and purify their wastewater. The tannery has also built a water reservoir to collect rainwater during the monsoons. And we love that they’ll repair products and replace parts for you.”
How is the brand doing in terms of innovation? Pretty well, according to Project JUST: “Given the amount of leather that is used in the production of shoes, bags and other types of clothing, we were excited about O My Bag’s work with Sheong Shi Tannery to develop new methods of tanning that had less of a negative impact. They’re also thinking holistically about the raw materials: sourcing from local cows and avoiding harmful treatment of animals. We think they’re building a sustainable model that can be replicated for brands that still choose to use natural leather.”
Elvis & Kresse
Price range: US$30 and above
Project JUST seems to hold this brand in equally high regard. It noted that this brand uses only reclaimed materials including genuine decommissioned fire hoses, flawed parachute silk, off-set printing blankets, leather scraps, coffee sacks and auction banners. “Elvis & Kresse has also decided to tackle the world’s 800,000 tonne a year leather waste problem by creating a system of shapes which are handwoven to effectively make new hide,” Project JUST highlighted.
“95% of their production is done in their own workshops, where they employ eleven workers. Elvis & Kresse items are handmade, outsourcing is for trim and accessories only, which equates to less than 5% of their total materials. 100% of their workers received a bonus last financial year,” Project JUST said of Elvis & Kresse.
Project JUST also seems to like that the company’s workshop is powered by renewable energy! “They collect unwanted shoe boxes to use for their packaging, and they monitor their water use with specific reduction targets. Elvis & Kresse both limits its water use and treats its own wastewater in order to preserve surrounding water sources.”
How does the brand fare in terms of innovation? According to Project JUST, Elvis & Kresse is a certified founding UK BCorp. “They have two small workshops, but are profitable, which means they have an effective business model that we hope can be replicated by others. We love the materials they’re reusing – the products look super cool. They also donate profits to charities related to the materials they reclaim: 50% of profits from the fire hose range are donated to the Fire Fighters Charity.”
Price range: US$5 and above
This is what Project JUST has to say about Tanner Bates: “The leather used in all Tanner Bates products is a by-product of the meat industry, sourced from a few select family owned tanneries across Europe that use traditional natural techniques to treat their leather – all of the leather is vegetable tanned. The owner of Tanner Bates, John Hagger, says that he knows all the people by name who make their raw materials.
“The connection the brand has with its suppliers is strong – they truly know the people at the five suppliers they work with: three tanneries and two small companies who supply hardware and tools. Tanner Bates also pays its workers the national living wage or higher.”
According to Project JUST, the leather used in Tanner Bates’ products is almost strictly tanned in the traditional method, using tannin from trees. “One of their tanneries in East Devon supplies oak bark tanned leather – they use four ingredients: the hide of the cow, oak bark, Devon River water and time – the transformation process can take 12 months or more. “ Other tanneries are in Florence, Italy and Chicago, USA. Products are made to order, minimising waste.
Project JUST’s verdict on the company’s innovativeness? “The brand can tell a shopper exactly where their products have originated, including when possible where the cows lived. We also love that they are modelling an ancient technique and showing it can work for modern production.”