During the 1990s we got used to buying high volumes of “stuff” at ever lower prices as manufacturing rushed to Asia to take advantage of what the Americans called “the China Price”. Walmart famously told its suppliers to find away to drop prices by near 40% or lose the business. Most consumers were uncomfortable with thus but we trusted the brands and bought this cheap clothing and footwear dutifully throwing it away and replacing it after very little uses. Some clothing items became defined by how many washes they could withstand in the machine, with two or three frequently quoted.
Today this approach to consuming has changed. Neither our consciences nor the planet can take this behaviour where things are dug from the ground, made into articles which get used once and thrown into landfill never to be available again.
A new word has come into the consumer vocabulary: frugality. It does not exemplify being mean, but rather being wise. Buying less yet buying items that will last. Buying items where the origins are more secure, long term, where the quality lies in the product rather than merely the logo is much higher on today’s agenda. So instead of buying more than one cheaper handbag more often we are seeing greater consideration in purchasing items that work better over a variety of occasions and last longer. In a difficult world some marketers call this a “small indulgence” but it is not like an expensive ice cream or a bottle of champagne that gets enjoyed just the once. A well crafted handbag chosen with care can last a generation and will often be passed over to a grateful daughter. It will develop a patina over the years and look better each time it is taken out of the cupboard. A reminder of a great purchasing decision.
Whether you are buying a handbag, a wallet, a pair of leather soled shoes, a saddle or the myriad of other items that are made from vegetable tanned leather, remember that everything about the vegetable tanning process and the leather it produces is about craftsmanship and long lasting quality. From tans from sustainable forestry, to leathers that grow richer with age, vegetable tanning is the new standard bearer for all that can be good about the modern thoughtful consumer.