The Ethical Leather Dilemma



Is it possible for leather to be real but also at the same time sustainable and ethical?

Before having started Kokumo, I have to admit that the term ‘ethical fashion’ only sporadically crossed my mind. For a long while, I had thought that, if I avoided certain shops, I would contribute the little that I could to this idea. However, after having talked to so many different friends and people in the community; I found out that there were so many different interpretations to this term. Some completely ban leather and fur from their closets, while others like me, sometimes have second thoughts before buying an article fabricated from an non-descript foreign country.

What you wear is a personal decision, whatever your believes may be. In my case, I have always appreciated my leather handbags. I understand leather to be a by-product of the meat industry and as long as people need their meat, leather will always be around. So, what practices does Kokumo do to ensure that we are pitching in to this ever changing world?

Firstly, the goods are made from locally raised animals in Nigeria and the bags are handmade there as well. You can see it on the ‘Made in Naija’ (Made in Nigeria) labels that are embossed proudly on each bag. Usually, the A-Z leather trail would look something like this: cattle are raised in Brazil, tanned in India, dyed in China, stitched in Vietnam and the end product is then sold in Europe. You can imagine the carbon footprint of one bag! While relying mainly on the Nigerian supply chain, Kokumo hopes to lower carbon dioxide emissions but also support the local leather craftsmen.

On my page What it Means to Produce in Nigeria, there is a brief explanation on how difficult it is to produce in Nigeria. With Kokumo, it tries to preserve the artisanal traditions that were once thriving in Nigeria, but somehow almost gone today. If these practices aren’t reinforced economically, they will fade away – as well as the source of income for the small group of people who are active in this sector. This is my small way of supporting these craftsmen.

So why don’t we keep it simple; buy good, feel good.