Okay guys, we’re gonna breathe through this one together.
Because this post might feel a little controversial for some readers. And that’s okay.
Talking about The Big Things -- environmentalism, activism, sustainability, ethics -- can get uncomfortable. Opinions differ. Definitions differ. Moral baselines differ. All of that is okay, more than okay, in fact, it’s a necessity -- and we want to start a conscious, educational, and collaborative discussion with you about these topics.
Sure, things might get a little hairy along the way, but let’s try to give each other some grace and speak from a place of mutual understanding. As always, we’re grateful for any feedback you feel called to share with us via the comments section, on our Instagram, or Facebook.
Okay, here we go.
Maria Malo’s commitment to sustainability
If you’ve made it to our blog, it goes without saying that you’re aware of Maria Malo’s position as a sustainable project. We create conscious, slow fashion items that respect the people and resources that go into the creation of our line.
In practice, our sustainable business choices look like this:
Paying a fair wage to our producers
Sourcing local materials
Using Non-Toxic and Sustainable Printmaking Practices
Ensuring the sourcing of raw materials (such as bamboo) is done in a sustainable way
Being conscious of our carbon footprint when it comes to transporting products
Opting for plastic-free packaging
A commitment to educating our audience on environmental issues
Creating long-lasting, high-quality items that fly in the face of fast fashion.
Now, it’s been brought to our attention that some of you are concerned with the fact that we sell a couple of leather items, and question whether or not we can truly call ourselves ‘ethical’ while doing so.
And we commend the critical thinking element that brought us all to this discussion:
There are a bunch of brands out there who’ll fool you into thinking they’re doing the earth a favour when actually, they’re just really good at marketing (if you missed the recent -- and might we say majorly heated -- controversy over H&M’s supposedly ‘sustainable’ summer dress, it’s well worth catching up on). It’s greenwashing, and this isn’t that.
The Cambridge dictionary defines sustainability as something that has “the quality of being able to continue over a period of time”, or in environmental terms specifically, “the quality of causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time”.
To us, a consciously chosen leather item falls into this category.
Hear us out.
Leather plays a little role in our shop that is at once minute and also very specific.
From the get-go, we’ve been inspired by the ancient practices of indigenous tribes from around the world; their deep connection with the earth, the ocean. Their reverence for the natural world. Their craftsmanship and respect for materials. It’s because of this inspiration that we chose our motto, “walk this earth without a trace”.
You see where we’re going with this, of course:
Leather has traditionally been used by indigenous peoples all over the planet throughout history.
We sell only a select few leather shoes on our website (and for the sake of clarity, we’d like to highlight a distinction: we do not actually use any leather to create items for our collection and will not do so in the future either). Most notably, perhaps, each of these products is tried-and-true designed to last.
And that is the key to it, for us.
Because sustainability can be defined in different ways.
In this case, sustainability, to us, looks like a pair of high-quality leather shoes that will last you a lifetime; that won’t need to be replaced. A pair of shoes that actually demand far less from the environment over time than a less durable vegan alternative that needs to be replaced much more frequently.
In our eyes, replacing a vegan leather product 4-5 times when the leather article is still perfect is not, in fact, a truly sustainable alternative.
We did, of course, feel called to investigate (vegan) leather alternatives and so far we haven’t come across any materials that match the durability of the shoes we have in the shop, or that would be strong enough to actually create shoes from.
That said, we are always open to your wonderful suggestions on materials that would stand the test of time -- please do get in touch if you have ideas.
Sustainability and ethics - two sides of the same coin?
While they are deeply interwoven, there is a distinction between sustainability and ethics.
We hope we’ve made clear why we believe leather, when used consciously, can be a sustainable material. However, if the use of leather goes against your personal ethics, that is indeed another matter. And it’s okay if it does. We don’t have to agree on everything; the message we want to relay in this blog post is one of transparency so that you can make an informed choice for yourself.
And look, we hear you. There is an element of imperfection in this discussion. Leather is still an animal product.
Sustainability, like ethics, isn’t about being flawless in your efforts all of the time; but rather about making an ongoing effort to always improve upon how you’ve lived up to now.
It’s like that viral photo from Zero Waste Chef said, “we don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly”. Doing something imperfectly doesn’t nullify your efforts, in fact, it allows people with different viewpoints to meet within a common goal (think flexitarianism vs veganism, reducing your household waste vs zero waste, carbon offsetting vs never flying).
We could also think of it this way:
One person might choose to be vegan for ethical reasons, while another may choose not to it for health reasons.
( if you need or want to eat meat or fish, do it conscious and choose organic… if you buy leather bags or shoes, buy classic good quality pieces that will last forever)
The logic may differ, but the end goal is aligned. We believe the same can be said for sustainable lifestyle choices on a greater scale, too. We’re on the same side.