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How Maison Hēroïne made the switch to recycled leather

On the
occasion of Global Earth Day in April, handbag label Maison Hēroïne took a
step towards more sustainability: The Berlin-based label works with
Germany-based leather manufacturer Helcor to produce bags made of recycled
leather. Maison Hēroïne founder and managing director Anton Jurina is also
co-founder of Armedangels. FashionUnited spoke with Sina Jurina, co-founder
and chief product officer, on the latest developments in sustainability.

What is special about Maison Hēroïne?

Maison Hēroïne is inspired by women who are always on the move; by
heroines who manage to balance everything, even when life is sometimes
crazily chaotic. Earlier, when I left the house in the morning, I always
took two bags with me: a chic leather handbag for the small stuff and a
cloth bag for my laptop and documents. That was pragmatic, but not really
practical. Why shouldn’t everything fit in one bag? A Maison Hēroïne
handbag says: I have everything under control and I can master everyday
life with all its ups and downs.

This year, you switched your handbag collection over to recycled
leather. Why?

For my husband Anton, sustainability has always been important. As
co-founder of Armedangels, he already gained experience in the field of
sustainable and fair produced fashion before starting Hēroïne. However, for
a long time, it was difficult to find a manufacturer for sustainable
leather that met our requirements. It was especially important for us to
become more sustainable without having to compromise on the high quality
for products in both look and feel.

What was your thought process like? What other aspects did you
consider?

Leather is innately a recycled material as most of it comes from the
food industry and is then processed further. With a genuine leather
handbag, one buys an investment piece with a timeless design and high
quality that does not have to be replaced every year. So it was clear to us
that we wanted to continue with this material and we thought about it quite
early on how we could produce in a more resource oriented way. For us, the
changeover is far from complete.

How exactly did it happen?

Of course, a change in production always involves a risk. Therefore we
have worked very closely together with our supplier of recycled leather
from Germany and our bag makers from Italy and Portugal.

We started with two or three existing styles and “tinkered” with the bag
until we were happy with the result. Now we are successively changing all
other styles to this sustainable material.

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Was it easy to find suitable suppliers? How did you find them?

We got lucky! A friend who had already changed his company over to the
new material, got us in touch with our current manufacturer in Germany. The
company, founded in 1990, specializes in finishing split leather.
Developing the recycled leather took about two years. The result is a
smooth leather, exclusively produced for Maison Hēroïne, and a
corresponding grained leather, for which Helcor received the LWG
environmental gold audit.

The production process starts where the leather industry would
otherwise create waste. Helcor produces its raw material from remnants of
the traditional leather production in Germany. The leather scraps are first
shredded, pressed together with a natural glue and then processed further
and refined. It works very well that the leather comes from Germany and
that therefore there are no long transport routes for processing in
Portugal.

Does the choice of material limit your design process?

A new material is always a new challenge, which one has to reexamine
from the start. But that’s also fun. In the first round of prototypes,
there were already some surprises that we did not foresee. For example,
that our previous needle size was not suitable for further processing, or
that we needed a completely new reinforcement.

How did customers react to the switch?

So far we have received positive feedback throughout from our customers
for our changeover. Some don’t even notice any difference in the look and
the feel of the leather. However, everyone loves the approach.

Were there any problems in the process that you did not foresee?

Not really, we are very happy with the result so far. The leather can be
processed in a similar way if one takes some characteristics such as the
different thickness of the material into account. An advantage of our
sustainable leather is that there are rarely any variations in colour, both
for smooth and grained leather. The leather that we found has basically all
the same properties like conventional, non-recycled leather. But in
comparison, it is particularly sturdy in terms of surface finish and more
scratch and dirt resistant than conventional Italian leather. The switch
therefore makes the bags even more durable and this supports the
sustainability aspect.

Are there other sustainability aspects that you will be addressing in
the future?

The next step for us is in the direction of recycled non-leather
materials. Here we are currently testing many different manufacturers. We
already have a free repair service for all our bags so that a defect in the
bag does not immediately render it unusable. Other areas, such as packaging
or even making the bag’s hardware sustainable, are also high up on our
to-do list.

Images: Maison Hēroïne

This article was originally published on Fashionunited.de.
Edited and translated by Simone Preuss.

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