How long have you been working with leather and what brought you to it?
The idea came to me during studying design. While visiting a small traditional tannery in Hamburg 2016, I became aware of leather that is sold for arts and crafts. The leather was rejected because it had small holes and bumps. This fact wouldn’t let me go – I couldn’t believe that this approach was standard. From then on I started to research and came across some grievances in the industry: Much of the raw material remains unused, because it is a waste product of the meat industry. A large part of the animal skin that is used for further processing is also disposed, because it has natural scars or holes and it doesn’t fit to the demands of the fashion industry. This was totally shocking for me – these bumps make leather so unique to me. I couldn’t believe that this valuable raw material is thrown away in tons. In addition, I realized that most consumers do not know about it. So I decided to take action myself and draw attention to this grievance – and founded ALICIA VICTORIA 2017 with the mission to use animal skin consistently.
What, in particular, is it about leather that is so good to work with?
It‘s interesting to work with leather, because it‘s a challenge to make products from an animal hide. It takes many different people to get to a finished product. And of course, leather is unique. Leather is durable and long lasting. If you treat it right, you can use it for decades.
Are any particular designers an inspiration to you?
Not really. I appreciate some designers for their perspective and style. However, I get most of my inspiration from antique markets. The products sold there were created for a different era. They were not as hectic and pushy as they often are today. I have a large collection of old leather bags with the most extraordinary details. The fact that they still work decades later in terms of style and quality never fails to excite me.
How did you start your career and how did you end up where you are?
In 2013 I graduated my training for clothing engineering in Mönchengladbach and moved to Hamburg, to study Fashion and Design Management. Four years later I finished my study and founded my own company: ALICIA VICTORIA. For the past four years I lived and worked in Berlin-Kreuzberg – a place which gave me new inspiration every day. While founding my company I’ve met many interesting people with various professional backgrounds. That opened my mind in new ways and inspired me to keep on working in this field.
How would you describe your design style?
Down to earth! I want to develop products that have a simple, classic and timeless design. With the focus on the high-quality leather.
How do you ensure the leather you supply and the products you make are as sustainable as possible?
I don’t work with intermediaries. Everything that is attached to my product comes from the producer himself. Regarding to the leather I only work with small farmers and organic farmers. I wouldn’t work with farmers who practice factory farming. The people with whom I work are committed to animal welfare. For me, it is important that the animals are kept dignified, have run and in the best case no live transports experience. Animal husbandry is incredibly multifaceted. With this eye for detail, I go through all the steps of my value chain. I want to play with open cards. In order to be able to sell my products with a clear conscience, I personally accompanied the production in Colombia and visited the farms. In the past 10 years, more than 70 percent of the tanneries in Colombia have had to close because environmental regulations have changed. According to experts, environmental regulations have been brought into line with European standards. These facts influence my work. Since the European standards are very strict and consistent, we have been focusing on a regional value chain for the past year. With the aim to use the possibilities and raw materials from our own immediate environment. In addition, I also place a high priority on ensuring that all other ingredients, such as: the zippers; the packaging; the brass details, etc. are ethically sourced and sustainably made.
What do you find frustrating about the sourcing of leather? Is there anything the industry could do to make the processes of production more transparent?
We lost appreciation for handcraft. The industry made us forget about the tough work behind the scenes. That’s why my biggest challenge is bringing back the appreciation of leather. There are so many steps between a living animal and a leather bag. But since the value chain isn’t transparent, costumers remain uninformed.
To date, there is no international labelling requirement for leather. The industry could enable the end consumer to make more decisions through more transparency. Currently, the visual appearance, the price and the quality are the decisive criteria for the purchase decision. The consumer doesn’t get to know anything about the origin of the animal, how long and under which conditions it had lived. Consumers don’t get to know with which tanning the leather was produced and from which country it comes. This transparency would automatically lead to a strong positive change. Therefore, we need an international labelling obligation for leather.