09 April, 2020 - 12 April, 2020
02 June, 2020 - 05 June, 2020
12 June, 2020 - 14 June, 2020
High Point (NC), U.S.
16 June, 2020 - 18 June, 2020
21 June, 2020 - 23 June, 2020
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Nina Conrad, the Head of Supply Chain Management at Leit & Held, a young German leather goods label founded by a trio of women with an interdisciplinary background in design, interior architecture and sustainability.
The brand specialises in classic, timeless bags, laptop sleeves and wallets that build on the longevity and natural beauty of leather, hoping to inspire a more conscious consumerism whereby bags are kept for more than just a season and beyond trends and fast-fashion fads. Made from full-substance, vegetable tanned cow leather and with a pure, minimalist signature, the brand’s key pieces actually remind me of my beloved leather messenger bag I had as a schoolgirl, but that’s for another story.
While preparing for the interview, which you can read in full in the January/ February 2020 print/digital app edition of International Leather Maker (ILM), I visited the brand’s website, www.leitheld.com, and could not help but feel impressed with its clever and engaging content. In addition to sharing the usual things such as brand philosophy and background on the founders as well as showcasing its collection, it also gives a step by step overview of the company’s processes from the animal through to the finished product. Unusually, the site also details the brand’s sourcing, supply chain, animal welfare, tanning and manufacturing processes, even the pricing structure is broken down into exactly how the value of the items in the collection is determined.
Illustrated with tasteful documentary style photographs which visualise each stage of the supply and production chain, customers can read from which certified organic farms in southern Germany the cows come from, where they are slaughtered, where the skins are tanned and how, where the products are then manufactured by craftsmen and who is packing and shipping the final items. The website also goes on to explain the virtues of leather as a natural product, stressing that it is superior to other, fake alternatives, and that the manufacturing of leather does not contribute to the slaughter of animals.
This is a successful execution of a key message which I feel must be at the centre of any effective marketing and branding of leather products as it is a powerful way to break down prejudices against leather. I think the real achievement of this young label’s approach is that it not only manages to put into practice its transparency pledge – where many other, bigger brands just talk the talk – but that it head-on addresses consumers’ concerns around leather making and a suggested link to poor animal welfare and unethical or cruel slaughter methods, which are often at the core of the rising rejection of leather by today’s consumers. What’s more, they do it in an intelligent way that is non-apologetic and proud of leather as a sustainable material. According to Conrad, the message and approach have the desired effect, too, namely, to re-assure customers of the ethical credentials of the label and leather generally, with the added bonus that it inspires many to question their buying choices and material use in other areas of life, as well as educating critics.
As an industry, we discuss a lot how the negative image of leather can be turned around, how we can reach Millennials and Gen-Zs in particular and convey the advantages of leather successfully, and ultimately how we can defend our material from increasingly hostile attitudes. What I take away from this is that marketing does not just have to be limited to conventional methods, promoting beautiful design, the latest trend or getting cool influencers on-board, but that sometimes, stripping things back to the basics, telling a story and giving an honest glimpse into a brand’s set-up can be all it takes to inspire.
Granted, Leit & Held is still a small enterprise and its supply chain relatively compact, but an open and more transparent marketing strategy is something that brands of all sizes can adapt and communicate – and show that as an industry, we indeed have nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing to hide.
Isabella Griffiths, Editor