The Reason Behind My <3 for Stella McCartney
I. The Intro Part: Why I <3 Stella McCartney
II. The Serious Part: The Facts of Leather
III. The Fun Part: Reasons (& Proof!) Why Ebay Should Be Your BFF
Ahem I thought I would share with you that...I just bought a pair of brand new Stella McCartney heels off of Ebay for... $37.50!!! I know I should stop this heels-I-will-never-wear-out spree thing (see? I have plenty of ways to bankrupt myself without the use of leather), but IT WAS TOO GOOD TO PASS UP! I used the "Buy it Now" price option, I could've waited until the bid ended (starting price was $30), but I knew that it would inevitably be taken away if I waited any longer [as has previously happened to a Stella bathing piece and a $40 Rebecca Taylor Lemon Leopard-Trim Coat...I still can't let go of that one...]
Sigh, a leather-free dream shoe. The reason behind this post is the reason I love Stella McCartney so much...
Some of you may understand my beef with fur/sealskin, because of the unsavory publicity surrounding the fur industry; the blatant, and oft-documented cruelty and neglect when it comes to those furry beings.
Others, besides the vegans, may not understand my beef with leather (no pun intended). There are common misconceptions about the way leather (suede, etc) is obtained. And questions that I've posed myself at some point in time. Oh and when I mean leather, I don't mean just cows-- it can often be skins of pigs, goats, sheeps, exotic animals like alligators, kangaroos, and more recently- because of the increasing fur demand- dogs and cats (China).
I'm just here to try to give the facts that should be faced, instead of (to be plain) you guys just buying "stuff" and remaining blissfully ignorant (or unaware) of the cruelty involved in the steps that come to obtaining pieces of skin, I mean, pieces made of skin.
I don't expect the idea of this post to appeal to many of you ["Hell no, if this means never buying Louboutins, forget it!"]. But for the few that it does, I hope this answers some questions and instead of blindly buying what is placed at your disposal, to give thought to the process in which they are acquired. Fashion isn't fun when living creatures are not only hurt, but tortured, in, the process.
Major Misconception # 1. Cows live a content full life (or close to it) before they're skinned-- and when they are, it's done in the most humane way possible.
I guess we all wish that! Life would be a lot easier if it were. But it's not true, not even close. There's a difference between respecting an animal & making its body useful when it expires, and "raising" them up and skinning them in some of the most inhumane ways. Unfortunately, the reality of the first scenario is zil to none. This is because the demand of their skins is such that no one's (or hardly anyone) going to wait out the lifespan of the animal to get to cash in on their skin(s).
The facts are that the large millions of animals from which leather is derived, including cows and baby calves who are ripped apart from their mothers (who could never live out a full life anyway cause of calfskin), are often first the victims of factory farming. I'm not going in depth about factory farming, but it's basically: they hardly get fresh air-- they're not out roaming free in the field or anything that mimics their real natural habitat-- in fact, most cows/pigs don't even have room to turn around in their stall, if there's no stalls, they're crammed against each other (if you guys could stomach it, I'd show you videoclips)-- resulting in the spreading of diseases or fighting, they sit on their feces, and they're all fed a "get fat" "diet" (obviously unhealthy). The reality is, if a several of them obtain a disease, break a leg, are living in hellish conditions, etc., noone's going to come by to check or alleviate their suffering (which may be the difference between factory farms and small farmers with free-range animals). These people have no respect for life at all.
Here's what the leather industry is really like (via cowsarecool.com * askcarla.com):
"Most leather comes from developing countries like India and China, where animal welfare laws are either non-existent or not enforced. Many of the millions of cows and other animals who are killed for their skin endure the horrors of factory farming—extreme crowding and deprivation as well as castration, branding, tail-docking, and dehorning, all without any painkillers. In India, a PETA investigation [don't complain about this being biased...animal welfare organizations are the only ones who bother to investigate] found that cows have their tails broken and chili peppers and tobacco rubbed into their eyes in order to force them to get up and walk after they collapse from exhaustion on the way to the slaughterhouse. At slaughterhouses, animals routinely have their throats slit and are skinned and dismembered while they are still conscious after improper stunning.
Most of the millions of animals slaughtered for their skin endure the horrors of factory farming before being shipped to slaughter, where many are skinned alive. Buying leather directly contributes to factory farms and slaughterhouses since skin is the most economically important byproduct of the meat-packing industry. Leather is also no friend of the environment since it shares all the environmental destruction of the meat industry, in addition to the toxins used in tanning.
The sheer number of animals required to meet America's meat habit and demand for skins makes humane treatment impossible. Animals are kept in overcrowded conditions on feedlots and factory farms, often unable to take a single step or turn around and deprived of all that is natural to them, including exercise, sunlight-and even the feel of grass beneath their feet.
At the slaughterhouse, more horrors await. A Washington Post investigation found that animals are routinely skinned and dismembered while they are still alive. Some examples: According to the Post, federal inspectors found live cattle dangling from an overhead chain at a plant in Texas. Videotape from another plant shows hogs kicking and squealing as they are lowered into a tank of scalding water, which is used to soften their skin.
Such abuses are all too common. Says a worker at a slaughterhouse in Washington state, "The line is never stopped simply because an animal is alive." (cowsarecool.com)
On the Indian leather industry: Since slaughtering cows and buffalos is illegal under most circumstances in all but a few states in India, the cows are marched over hot, dusty roads for 50 to 100 miles, across state lines to locations where they can be loaded onto trucks and taken to slaughter.
Typically, up to 24 animals are crammed into trucks meant for only six to seven, so cattle must climb over one another to find any space, inadvertently gouging each other with their horns, trampling and crushing those beneath them. Horns are broken off and nose rings ripped out. Extreme crowding is particularly cruel when temperatures soar, leading to heat exhaustion and suffocation.
Many animals are so sick and injured by the time they arrive at the slaughterhouse, they must be dragged inside. Others have hot chili peppers and tobacco rubbed into their eyes and their tail bones painfully twisted and broken just to make them stand up. Some animals have their legs cut off or are skinned while still alive. (askcarla.com)
Major Misconception 2. Synthetic material is much more harmful than the real thing, oh, and real skins are more superior and of better quality.
This is up for debate (at least compared to the previous one). Different studies funded by different interest groups find different things. But I still stand by what I've learned and found. First, there are two ways harmful could mean-- harmful to you, and harmful to the environment. I think it can be concluded that manmade shoes don't kill you, or else the lower-income bracket of the USA will soon rise against the government on why they're trying to clandestinely rid them via the affordable manmade shoes they often purchase (joke, joke). Now, I'm sure leather jackets or shoes don't kill you either, though they do, no doubt, off some creatures of this earth.
But of course we're talking about the chemicals that go into synthetics and animal skins. Leather is processed by tanneries which are, no doubt, full of toxins that are they continuously emitting (many towns in which tanneries are based suffer from this-- do a google search). If you really want to pull the natural bit with me, when you think about it-- there isn't much natural about trying to stuff it with chemicals to preserve a piece of skin, which is supposed to naturally degrade, to stay forever. Tanning chemicals are pollutants that prevent leather from biodegrading...which is also eh not-so-good for our environment. All this stuff about leather "being better for breathability because of it's pores"? I don't really buy it (no pun intended again). Wouldn't the pores be full of these chemicals?
The Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology states, "On the basis of quantity of energy consumed per unit of product produced, the leather-manufacturing industry would be categorized with the aluminum, paper, steel, cement, and petroleum-manufacturing industries as a gross consumer of energy." (By contrast, plastic wearables account for only a fraction of 1 percent of the petroleum used in the U.S.) Tanneries use toxic substances to tan leather, and tannery effluent contains large amounts of other pollutants, such as protein, hair, salt, lime sludge, sulfides, and acids. (askcarla.com)
You may be asking, but what about the chemicals in manmade materials? I haven't heard of as many pollutants coming from PVC or PU, for example, although I know of the two, PU (polyurethane) is much better to the environment. As mentioned in previous posts:
Factory farming also has devastating effects on the environment. Farm animals produce huge amounts of waste which seeps into the ground and surface water. In addition, the intense clearing of forests for grazing has heightened desertification throughout the world. Although not ideal environmentally, synthetic leather is less detrimental to the environment when the overall process of producing leather is taken into account. (mattandnat.com)
25% of land surface is used for grazing livestock. This land would be better used to grow trees for timber, fuel, fruit and vegetables as a third of our land suffers desertification through the clearing of forests for grazing. Farm animals produce a huge amount of waste which leaches into the ground and surface water. This pollutes wells and rivers and is a contributor to global warming. Although not ideal environmentally, PU is clearly the less of two evils. (beyondskin.co.uk)
Common Q's & Misgivings
1. Cows are going to be slaughtered anyway for meat, so what's the big deal?
The big deal?! The BIG DEAL?!! what!?!?! Just kidding, just kidding. Do you really want to keep endorsing and supporting these corporation-based factory farms? Well, the thing is, besides everything that was mentioned before...
This is a common misconception concerning leather. The animal's skin is the most economically important byproduct of the meatpacking industry.
When dairy cows' production declines, for example, their skin is made into leather; the hides of their offspring, "veal" calves, are made into high-priced calfskin. Thus, the economic success of the slaughterhouse (and the factory farm) is directly linked to the sale of leather goods. Decreasing demand for both animal foods and leather products will result in fewer cows being factory-farmed and killed. There are so many alternatives to leather, why support unnecessary cruelty? (askcarla.com)
2. Well, I don't like synthetics on my feet...they sweat and stuff...you know?
I think it's a common paradigm to think skins must be "higher quality" and whatnot, but if you're too antsy and can't wrap your head around the idea of synthetics, or you really do sweat a lot, you should know that there are now a plethora of materials that have arisen in the name of science. "The newest synthetics are actually superior to real skins. For example, Chlorenol (called Hydrolite by Avia and Durabuck by Nike), which is used in athletic and hiking shoes, is an innovative new material that "breathes," stretches around the foot with the same "give" as leather, and provides great support. It can even be popped in the washing machine- try that with your leather sneakers! (cowsarecool.com)"
3. Why should animals have rights?
Hey, just because we can exploit them doesn't mean we should. Just cause someone can (have the ability to) commit murder doesn't mean they should, just as even if I can do 27 jumping jacks and roll along the hardwood floors like a hedgehog doesn't mean I should. And I wouldn't. Just so you know.
If you can seriously live with yourself, wearing leather, after taking in all these facts and understanding them...well, that's your decision. But do MAKE a decision, instead of taking these skins for granted and not taking into account the torture of breathing beings like ourselves.
The FUN part! The Vintage, Thrift, Consignment, Stores, Shops, & Boutiques
So you've heard all the explanations I have to offer on the beef with leather (& you can learn more at CowsAreCool.com). However, here is another scenario: Whatever your reason is, you still want to stick to those leather boots, heels, whatever. Then on behalf of, well, everything on this post, I implore you to go for vintage. VINTAGE DOES NOT MEAN FRUMPY. You'll see I don't have as much beef with that-- although I only have one pair of vintage leather heels-- the red Oleg Cassinis I bought for HS graduation. When you purchase vintage shoes, it's really like hunting for treasure almost. Ebay's a favorite haunt of mine. Not only can you find a shoe (or handbag...) that's held up for decades, but an one-of-a-kind unfound style that you can be sure hardly anyone else has.
Vintage Charles Jourdans are one of my favorites (haven't bought any though). They seem creepily relevant and modern, like architectural art. And a lot of these shoes have been going to waste or rather just sitting in a closet, untouched-- new in box, or with minimal wear. Shoes are meant to be adored! So along with a unique stylish find, they're also quite affordable. I mean, these are getting purchased for $8, $14, $25...on Ebay. Of course, some of them are a lot more, like the glossy riding boots on the bottom.
If you've been wondering, I've been strangely absent for most of the week because I was (volunteering and) busy scanning Ebay for my newest obsession-- cute vintage shoes. love, Love, LOVE!! Below are some of my favorites-- including the above vintage white, NEVER-WORN Charles Jourdan slip-on flats. THEY SOLD FOR $9.99! I was so crestfallen when I found I missed the end of the bidding time. What a find...
Some of them don't fit me (if I could buy them all I surely would), there's one pair I'm waiting to pounce on, and some have already expired (but have gone up relisted-- if unbought)
PS. I was too tired to put all the links up...if you're inquiring about one of them, just email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyway, this brings me to the next scenario, although you have a heart, you might still be the pickiest of pickiest...shying away from putting your "dainty" feet in a shoe that's touched anyone else's. Then, let me introduce you to your maybe-new favorite term: deadstock. Deadstock is stock (shoes, bags, etc.) that's a "never-been-kissed" new. A quick ebay search with the keys, "deadstock", "new", and "never worn" will bring up tons of long lost styles. And sometimes, you even get lucky enough to find a pair of vintage YSL, or Lanvin, kicks.
In closing, leather-free shoes and bags are still extremely stylish and functionable (as this blog has often proved). And if you're like me who still likes the occasional dose of high fashion, though cruelty-free, accessories, we're in good company, with the likes of Stella McCartney, Matt & Nat, Beyond Skin, Charmone...