When we talk about leather industry, there is no doubt that its impact on the environment is great. And the fashion industry is among the ones that produce the biggest part of finished leather waste. Different types of leather are being used primarily for their visual appeal; hence, their waste is made partly as a result of aesthetic flaws. Scars on the skin, scratched or otherwise damaged surface, or unequally distributed patterns as it might occur in exotic leathers, are all reasons for a skin to be deemed unusable. In the case of ostrich leather for example, only about 1/3 of the whole skin has quill bumps, which contributes to its highly valued appearance. Throughout our research we have realized that the field of recycling possibilities is exceptionally vast and our attention has especially been drawn to leather’s natural properties. Each type of leather brings along a story, but most importantly a natural behavior usually hidden behind our own visual understanding of the material. During this project, we have been interested in exploring and combining these natural properties and behaviors with different manufacturing processes. Extensive research has led us to the conclusion that different types of leather when treated with specific moisture, heat and pressure, create their own natural bonds that not only transform the material, but give it properties of other materials as well. For instance, naturally tanned leathers, like thicker ones predominantly used in manufacturing belts, can transform during the process to the extent where they can be cut, sanded and drilled, just like wood, while their final surface could be polished using the traditional ways of polishing edges of leather belts.
Hide glue has been widely used in the course of history, but mostly as the end product. In our process, leather’s natural glue is released in the process of recycling itself; and it is during this process that it binds different layers together.
Our starting point was getting to know both the characteristics of the material and the processes used to shape and transform it, such as cuirbouilli for example; gaining the knowledge about handcrafting methods used in different areas of industry was likewise valuable. The aim was to find new ways to employ these crafts and let the material develop the process. We have found it fascinating to what degree some leathers can transform while still maintaining fragments of their previous journey. As a result, we have created different leather laminates, each bringing a different aesthetic feature in addition to a new physical property, such as strength and elasticity.