WHY Leather & NOT Polyurethane

This is a rather contentious topic for some… which I’ve experienced first hand, face to face with market goers… I am NOT AT ALL an advocate of animal cruelty, factory farming or caging animals in order to make clothes. Just as much as I am NOT an advocate of the production of fabrics and clothing that destroy our environment and/or communities in countries that we cannot see with our own eyes from the comfort of a shopping mall… the devastation of mass produced clothing is causing them to be easily overlooked when all we focus on is how much it will cost to purchase an item. So, all that said I’d like to share with you why I choose leather over polyurethane…

In an endeavour to utilise as much of a resource as possible, when I first started making guitar cases out of old woollen blankets, I expanded into totes and satchels, which led me to create my RESCUED AND REPURPOSED product range. I chose to work with kangaroo leather for the bag straps and closures, as I came across a tannery that specialised in tanning roo skins and cutting lacing out of them, the remaining pieces (the limbs) were of no use to them so I saw potential in rescuing these too… just like the blankets. In expanding on my leather work skills I have also stemmed into working with hair on hide which is still based on the skill of sewing but just with a different medium.

For years I have been talking to customers about the quality and benefits of old woollen blanket material, it’s insulating and protective as an instrument case, it breaths and water beads on the surface rather than penetrating… along with the fact that these character filled blankets should be treasured rather than discarded. With the introduction of kangaroo leather to my range many conversations have been had about the benefits of roo hide, with it being light weight yet strong, along with numerous conversations about the benefit of using this rescourse, especially with the culling of kangaroos in our country. It’s far better to use the flesh and hide than just let them go to waste… also far better than opting to use a man made product that is not environmentally friendly in place of a natural fibre!

Before making my hair on hide vest I only had a synthetic fur vest which I bought second hand and adored… it’s a rather fun, faux shaggy goat hair… I wore that vest a lot over the past 2-3 years. Vests are great if you just need to break the chill and keep your core warm, but the difference between wearing the synthetic vest lined in a synthetic opposed to a natural fibre unlined vest is phenomenal… the natural fibre breaths and does not make you sweat as easily for starters. Recently I wore my kangaroo hair on hide vest on a day that would be considered too hot for fur, but I wore it almost all day, granted I was wearing a light weight sleeveless top underneath it, but I am certain had I worn my synthetic vest instead I would have had to take it off much sooner.

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Nature has things all worked out, it knows how to keep things in balance, it’s what we humans do to it that throws it out of whack. It concerns me that some people are opting to use manmade materials in the name of stopping animals from being harmed and yet overlook the impacts the production of these materials are having on the communities that reside within the area of those factories, as well as the impact this having on our environment.  The tanning of leather using the vegetable tanning process is not as harmful to the environment as the production of plastic based products… plus leather is biodegradable, while polyurethane is not at 500 years to breakdown! Before opting to buy a polyurethane garment in place of a natural fibre like leather, because you  think it’s not fair on the animal ask yourself is this material actually healthy for me to wear… and are the lives of others along with the preservation of our environment not important too?

<<= by marie-nicole =>>

xx

 

PS. Happy Earth Day… let’s work together on preserving this beautiful planet we call home… for us, our children, our global community & animal kingdom alike!

PPS. Kangaroo Fur Adjustable Vest is now available, individually & meticulously handcrafted in a sustainable manner, made to order, here.

PPPS. Kangaroo Leather Satchel with featured lacing design available here.

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Gratitude for my supportive Yoga/Pilates mat…

It only struck me recently that my Yoga/Pilates mat has supported me for well over a decade now… a gift from my equally supportive husband.

This mat has protected my spine during many a sessions of yoga/pilates and other fitness classes, it has enabled me to regain strength in my core following birth of both of my beautiful boys, it has cushioned my aching body during the times of healing from the pain of life’s stresses, it has aided the rejuvenation of both my mental and physical state throughout challenging experiences and numerous times of change, it has also been there to ground me during times of sheer excitement and gratitude for all the wonderful experiences life has offered me too… and yet all these years I have given very little thought to just how much this mat has done for me. At the end of a session I would simply roll it up and place it’s string and toggle strap back on, strangling out any positive energy that lay within… I would sling it over my shoulder and wince at the pain the string strap would cause with the weight of the mat cutting into my shoulder.

Rescued & Repurposed Blanket Yoga/Pilates Mat & Classic Style Tote with Kangaroo Leather Features

Rescued & Repurposed Blanket Yoga/Pilates Mat & Classic Style Tote with Kangaroo Leather Features

So after all these years I finally decided to give back to my supportive mat… now snug in its very own repurposed blanket duffle style bag adorned with a comfortable kangaroo leather strap lovingly handcrafted using traditional saddlery stitching techniques and a braided feature that delicately enables the opening of the bag to self close as I lift with the beautiful natural feel of this light weight but very strong leather strap in my hand and place it over my shoulder where it now sits comfortably supporting the weight of the mat without cutting in.

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Handcrafted Kangaroo Leather Strap & Feature Braided Closure

I feel my mat is finally being given the thanks it deserves and being supported in return for all the years it has supported me.

<<== by marie-nicole ==>> 

xx

Ps. Yoga/Pilates mat bags will be available as a part of my Repurposed Blanket Range in my Etsy store next week!… so you too can give your mat some loving support in return for it supporting you!

PPs. Also pictured is my Classic Style Tote the perfect accompaniment for a by marie-nicole mat bag. With its linen lining & internal phone and pen pocket, you can carry your throw/towel/cushion and other essentials in a repurposed blanket tote to suit your repurposed blanket mat bag!

Do you know what’s in your shoes?

Towards the end of my professional photography career I was asked to photograph a wedding, that I was also going to be a guest at, so I wanted to buy a pair of shoes that suited my outfit but were practical to work in. The shoes I bought were not cheap necessarily, but they were on sale and heavily reduced in price, which at the time I thought was a bonus. When I got home and opened the box there was an overwhelming toxic smell that wafted out… I instantly thought it must just be the glue they used, so I placed them out on the verandah to air out. On the day of the wedding the smell had not completely disappeared but had worn off, so I wore my new shoes and happily snapped away. But over the course of the day I developed this uncomfortable feeling in my legs, it was an unusual feeling, one I had not experienced before. The only experience I could liken it to, was when I was put under a general anaesthetic and could feel the substance slowly flowing through my veins up my arm. It felt like there was something penetrating up from my feet up through my legs. By the time we got to the reception venue my legs were aching, I could not take it any more, so I took the shoes off, as that was the only explanation I could come up with for this most unpleasant feeling. All I could think of was that toxic smell that came out of the box, which could have meant a toxic substance may have been entering my body via my feet.

So just as much as we need to be aware of where our clothing is made, which is hot topic at the moment (and rightly so) so too should we be more mindful about the production of our foot ware. Not only for our own health and well being but for those who are given the task of making them. The substance used in the construction of those shoes that made my legs ache could not be good for the people handling it day after day, mass producing thousands of pairs of shoes. Not to mention the destruction it is most likely causing in their immediate environment with chemicals being washed into their water ways. The list goes on of how harmful cheaply made shoes are for us and our global community.

In my childhood I recall driving across to the other side of Melbourne with my father to pick up his handcrafted shoes. He had two pairs custom made by a cobbler in an industrial area of Melbourne, I cannot recall the name of the area, but I do recall the experience vividly and I can even see the building in my minds eye. Two pairs of shoes handcrafted leather shoes with wooden heels… custom fitted, one pair in brown and the other black. It would not surprise me if he still has those shoes, I recall him wearing them to work every day and even wearing them out on the weekend. He cleaned and polished them every weekend and treated them with the utmost respect. His first job was as a shoe pattern maker for a cobbler on the little island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean where he moved to from the even smaller island Rodrigues where he was born. The art of making shoes has always fascinated me, I have spoken to my husband about my desire to learn to make shoes many times over the years and been taking small steps along the way, developing skills that compliment the craft, I have not been in a hurry to reach this goal, as I have had many other goals I have been working towards along side this one. Recently though I attended a Jandals (leather sandals) making workshop at the tannery I purchase my leather from. It was run by a professional shoe maker who specialises in custom made shoes, and was a fantastic introduction into constructing very simple foot ware. At the end of the workshop I left with my jandals at this stage…

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Then over the following week I used skills I have developed through my current leather work to finish them off. I bevelled the edges then stamped them with my signature, a quote, patterns & the shoe size. Then stained & sealed them with the eco-friendly stain and sealer that I use for my cuffs and personalised labels. To finished them off I added some metal beads to help weigh down the straps and give them that special little extra detail touch.

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I also plaited a second set of straps in kangaroo leather which I adorned with beads & charms… giving me the option to transform one pair of Jandals into two completely different looks.

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Since my experience with the toxic shoes, I have opted to buy better quality shoes and have less. I find open leather sandals most comfortable to wear in the extreme summer heat we experience down here, over winter I opt for well crafted leather boots. I look forward to the weather warming up so that I can test out my new leather Jandals properly, but until then I shall hang them up and admire them, especially since they were handcrafted by me… eventually Jandals will make their way into my product line, once I have thoroughly road tested them and refined their construction.

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So the next time you go to buy a new pair of shoes remember to ask yourself; is it worth compromising on your own health and quality of living for others in order to obtain many pairs of cheaply made shoes? Wouldn’t you rather invest in less and purchase shoes that are made ethically and with respect for our environment and global community? Knowing where your products come from is possible… by choosing to support local producers gives you have the opportunity to ask first hand what it is they use to create their product. Doing so also keeps the artisan skills and techniques thriving in our own community & country. There are many people just like me out there who actually enjoy the process of creating a product and digging deeper into understanding the process, refining their skill, producing a quality handcrafted item for you to enjoy!