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Being an advocate for organic leather, we wanted to talk to Elena Ekström, CEO of premium bag brand Bukvy, about the sustainable ways of approaching the controversial raw material. That, and their soon-to-launch crowdfunding campaign that will take the brand to a new, greener, level.

Conventional leather is no doubt a complicated matter seen from both an ethical and sustainable perspective, partly as the chemical-filled tannery process can have devastating consequences for both people and nature. However, wanting to get some inside info from the people who are approaching the industry in a new and conscious way, we turned to Bukvy—a Stockholm-based brand founded in 2015 by Joanna Bark and Elena Ekström (to the right) that makes premium leather bags, and are probably best known for their five-in-one Bo Bardi Bag (video below).
As a small brand aspiring to become completely “organic” (apparently this is a real possibility) they’re taking new measures in fighting their way to recognition. As a new step in this quest, they’re just about to launch a crowdfunding campaign (live April 2nd) to help them reach their high set “green” goals.    

We can’t help but asking: The leather industry is one of the most polluting in the world. What are your thoughts on this?

– A big part of the industry really is terrible, but not all of it. What makes the difference is if chemicals are used in the tannery process, and if so, what kind of chemicals those are and how these are handled and disposed off.

– But it’s not all black or white. The better kinds of chrome, for example, is not harmful to people. If the tannery is serious and European, they take care of the chrome so it doesn’t harm the environment. Sometimes, using minimal amounts can even be a good thing, as it makes the leather more durable and long-lasting, which is more sustainable in the long run.

– We’re always very conscious about all parts of the production process, and have established relationships with partners that understand what is important to us: people, animals and the environment. Our choice to work with leather was not an easy one, but since high quality leathers are extremely durable, and durability is an important thing when it comes to making the world more sustainable, we do feel true and honest to our brand.

Starting up this business, have you experienced any “bad sides” of the leather industry?

– Yes, a couple of times, unfortunately. In the beginning, we tried to explore ways of creating less expensive collections, and was recommended to work with producers far away from us geographically. So we ordered a test piece of vegetable tanned leather, but when I opened the package, there was this horrible smell.

– As it turned out, vegetable tanned leather to them meant “99% vegetable tanned, 1% chrome tanned”. This alternative is even worse than “regular leather”, as it’s made with a kind of chrome that has been washed out, and that is harmful to the people working in the tannery-process and pollutes drinking waters as well as the surrounding nature.

– A leather like this might trick the customers to believe they’re buying a sustainable item, when they’re in fact not. If we hadn’t investigated this closer, we could have easily been fooled.

Where do you source the leathers you work with today?

– Tracking the leather source is another difficult thing. We have chosen to work exclusively with European leathers, as EU regulations prohibit the harmful types of chrome. But even here, it’s easy to get fooled or miss a checkpoint if you’re not careful.

– Today, we’re in direct contact with the tanneries instead of just the studios or factories. We always ask for the actual leather source—not only if it’s European. It’s important to be involved in the entire production circle, even if it takes more time and sometimes slows down the process.

What is “organic leather”, and why is it better?

– 100% organic or vegetable tanned leather is tanned without any kinds of chrome or other toxins. Instead, it may be tanned with for example bark or olive leaves. It’s often a much slower process, which creates a very nice patina, and takes months to finish.

“Our choice to work with leather was not an easy one, but since high quality leathers are extremely durable, and durability is an important thing when it comes to making the world more sustainable, we do feel true and honest to our brand”

Getting access to better, greener materials and production methods is more difficult for you as a small brand—why is this?

– Ever since the beginning, our vision has been to offer a 100% organic collection, but so far, we’ve only been able to work with a few organic limited-edition items. This is due to the fact that we can’t reach the tanneries’ minimum quantities. As a new brand, you have to get used to always being at the bottom of the heap.

Your new crowdfunding campaign, launching April 2nd, is hopefully going to help with this. How does it work? 

– We have been thinking about involving our customers earlier on in the production process for some time now, and when we found this amazing organic Italian leather, we thought we’d give crowdfunding a try.

– The Indiegogo campaign is a way for our customers to support us in creating an even more sustainable brand. To reach the tanneries minimum quantities, we ask for support to complete our first order. As a reward, the customers will receive a substantial discount and a truly transparent purchase with insight into the entire process—from tanning and production to delivery.

Are you also considering sustainability when you design, or in other parts of your business?

– Always! The organic part is important, but mass production and mass consumption are equal problems. We believe in minimalism, quality value and in owning fewer things. Multifunctionality is one way of handling the issue—buy one great bag instead of five.

Here’s how the Bo Bardi Bag works:

 

Visit Bukvy here and follow them on Instagram


2 Comments

Johanna Andersson: So glad you like it! <3
April 2, 2018

Maja: Wow thank you for a great article
April 1, 2018

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