Swedish brand Deadwood makes leather jackets exclusively out of recycled materials, and is currently represented in about 160 stores worldwide. In November they celebrated their 5-year anniversary.

Swedish duo Carl Ollson and Felix von Bahder founded Deadwood in 2012 and run the company out of their flagship store in Stockholm, Sweden. They mainly make leather jackets out of 100% recycled materials, combining punk inspired aesthetics with a green cause. As we too believe recycling is the path to a more sustainable fashion future, we where naturally curious to find out more about the brand. Co-founder Carl Ollson talks to Make it last about sustainability, design processes and recycled leather.

Congratulations on celebrating 5 years as a brand! What are the highlights from these past years?

– Thanks! Wow, we’ve had so many. It’s been rollercoaster, but a fucking good ride. I remember back in 2013, going to Way Out West music festival—it was the first time I saw people that I didn’t know wearing our stuff. The brand had a life of it’s own! That was a proud moment. Another highlight was in January this year walking past our very own window at Selfridges on Oxford Street in London, and seeing random people standing outside gazing in on our display. Definitely an arm pinching moment! Oh, and off course, our 5-year bash a couple of weeks ago was pretty special. We had a full house and Sweden’s two best live acts, INVSN and Les Big Byrd, on stage. Magical.

You make jackets and accessories from recycled leather. How did you come up with this idea and how would you describe the product?

– In a way it was a natural progression from the vintage store we had years ago. The idea off blurring the lines between new and used always felt interesting. And when we realized that we could easily find tons of ugly leather jackets, but had a really hard time finding good ones, it only seemed reasonable to use the ugly ones as raw material for the perfect ones we had in our minds! So basically we take apart used leather garments with the right feel, use the best pieces of leather and finally patch the pieces back together according to our own patterns. The result: an awesome leather product with a vintage soul that is way better for the people, animals and the environment at large.

What’s your definition of sustainability and being a sustainable brand? 

– The idea originated from our love for the unique ”soul” that a vintage garment has, the green side of it all sort of came along as a bonus. I guess sustainability means being able to sustain a way of doing things for many generations to come without putting people, animals and environment at risk. As for us we are careful not to claim complete sustainability. I mean, although there are immense supplies of discarded leather garments out there, at some point hopefully the supply runs out. That would be a victory. And I guess when that day comes we’ll have to do something else; or retire happy!

What would you say are the environmental wins of working with recycled leather?

– Actually we’re bypassing most of the downsides of leather production when using existing materials, by adding zero to the slaughter and horrifying conditions of livestock. Can you imagine one billion cows are being killed each year for the meat and leather industry? Also there is no need to re-tan the leather, so we don’t need to use chromium or sulphides—toxins that are polluting the ground water and killing wildlife as well as people.

What’s your view on the issue of toxic chemicals in conventional leather products?

– It’s actually quite insane what an ugly process leather tanning is, possibly the darkest side of the clothing industry which is already the dirtiest industry in the world next to crude oil. If there is a future for new leather it will be slaughter free, lab grown and vegetable tanned.

How do you source the materials for your products? 

– Our team is scouring vintage markets all over the world for leather with the right quality and feel. And believe me, there is a lot of it out there once you start looking.

How would you describe the process of designing and manufacturing a recycled leather jacket?

– The design work is in many ways similar to any kind of clothing design with garment sketches and patterns. However, then there is an element of puzzling, as the bits of leather we use are usually smaller than when working with new hides. It’s a patchwork structure that needs to feel balanced and symmetrical. Much of the individual puzzling is left to the person sewing who has mandate to put his or her own touch to the garment. It makes for an extremely creative atmosphere in the workshop, and it also makes each Deadwood product unique!

How does your sustainable way of thinking come across in your other products and business in general? 

– At the moment we are focusing on recycled leather. However, in the past we’ve had jeans from organic cotton denim in the collection as well as t-shirts and tops made from recycled cotton, bamboo and hemp fiber. I hope to develop more of these other product groups in the future, but then to incorporate more of the recycling business into the process. And production aside, as a small company we try to be mindful of our environmental impact. We have initiated a project to streamline our logistics with a green focus in mind. And in everything from the light fixtures in our Stockholm office to the oat milk in our coffee we try our best. All the small things add up!

What are your best tips for making leather jackets and accessories last?  

– Grease up! Leather is a cool material as it grows in character with wear. But to enjoy this journey you need to show your leather some love. So after raising hell or dancing in the rain, make sure to use some sort of leather conditioner. All you need is a dry cotton wipe and five minutes of your life. And don’t forget: when your jacket finally rips, hand it to your local tailor—it’s almost always worth it!

What’s in your pipeline right now, and what are your plans for the future?

– We are growing quite fast now, so we’re basically focusing on refining the recycling process even further. At the same time we’re developing our global distribution, and the US has quickly become our biggest market. And off the record: I think I’ve just designed the ultimate leather jacket, seriously, coming in stores in August with some shops getting a sneak peak early spring. That’s all I can say!

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