The world's trusted guide to sustainable and ethical fashion

The world's trusted guide to sustainable and ethical fashion

Why We’ve Fallen in Love With Luxury Deer Leather

This piece is generously sponsored by Natural Nuance. As always, EcoCult only works with companies we believe are making the world a better place. Support EcoCult by supporting them!

We all like to fantasize about getting back to our natural roots and reconnecting with the land, the way human beings used to. While sitting in the middle of your fast-paced concrete jungle, maybe you’ve looked up how much it would cost to rent one of those hobbit-looking huts on Airbnb for a month of unplugged bliss. I’ve personally even thought about learning hunting and foraging survival skills. Hmmm, is there a Sami-led workshop on that I can sign up for?  

But in the end, I also really enjoy looking fashionable and meeting up with my friends for a cocktail at a zero-waste cafe I saw on Instagram.

What if we can have a little of both? Natural Nuance is a sustainable lifestyle brand that’s bringing something special and new to the ethical, sustainable fashion scene: they’re taking elements of truly natural, traditional living—wild deer leather, shibori dyeing, fish oil and vegetable tanning—and combining them into a modern fashion item.

Ase Elvebakk and Lisa Niedermayr are the Swedish-Austrian duo that founded Natural Nuance. Lisa is a lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and is “a guru when it comes to sustainable textiles,” according to Ase. She started a slow fashion design show and award in Vienna for young designers working with eco textiles. For Ase, nature—and therefore sustainability—has always been an important part of life.

“Growing up in Sweden, we used to have our summer holidays at the cottage without electricity,” she says. “I’ve always cared about nature, but after getting more and more information about what is really going on, I’m now looking more into my own wardrobe and to be honest, I’ve found some monsters in my closet…”

So, after hearing so many people (including themselves) being concerned about how incredibly unsustainable the fashion industry is, they decided to something about it, and launched their first collection in 2017.

How Wild Leather Means True Circularity and Sustainability

The brand’s first collection of accessories, Indigo Mood, is a selection of beautiful, indigo-dyed leather clutches and handbags made entirely from natural deer leather. They buy the deer skin from hunters in Austria, where deer have to be hunted in order to keep the forest healthy and biodiverse. “Yes, it’s true: these are animals,” says Ase, “but we live in a world where, if you don’t hunt the deer, they will destroy the whole biochemistry of the forest. The whole ecological system has to be in balance.” 

This leather also provides a durability that few synthetic materials can offer. “We signed the Global Fashion Agenda 2020 Commitment for Circularity, and when you look at circularity, you have to really know that the material will last,” says Ase. “So if you have to take it back again to recycle it, leather is really a top material.”

“The thing with these bags is that the more you carry them, the softer they get,” she continues. “And of course, the more you take care of your belongings, the longer they last.” If required, you can send your bag back to be repaired, or they can actually take your bag back to completely remake it into something different, using the exact same materials.

Everything used to make Natural Nuance bags is completely natural: Their leather is free of heavy metals, including chromium. Instead, it’s tanned with completely natural fish oil or with vegetable tanning agents such as tara or mimosa. Furthermore, the bags haven’t been sealed with plastics, as is usually pretty standard with other luxury bags. Rather than hiding or flattening the leather to make it look homogenous, the natural spots, scars and lines are embraced by the design. The bags are dyed with natural indigo dye using a shibori technique, which is a Japanese method where the leather is actually stitched together after it’s dyed and then dyed again. This creates a different kind of color pattern, which you won’t find on products dyed using a more standard process. It also means that no two bags are the same, so you can enjoy your own unique piece.

I picked up my own Natural Nuance clutch in Zurich from Ase, and I was surprised about how lightweight it is, which is something they strive for. I’ve very much been into indigo lately, so it fits right into my New York capsule wardrobe. I’m so excited for all the cocktail parties and sustainable fashion events I will wear it to in the coming months! I just hope someone compliments me on it, so I can say, “Thanks, it’s indigo-shibori-dyed deer leather from Europe,” and so smoothly segue into evangelizing this beautiful material and brand.

This piece is generously sponsored by Natural Nuance. As always, EcoCult only works with companies we believe are making the world a better place. Support EcoCult by supporting them!

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