The Leather Wearing Vegan

photocredit: Horween Leather

Sounds like an oxymoron, and you’re not wrong. I’ve been a dietary vegan for, give or take, the last 4 years, but I usually just say “vegan”. To some that’s a false statement, as I still wear leather and consume certain derivatives like honey, but after explaining that my sole purpose is sustainability, I usually get resounding nods. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have pets growing up, but my raison d’être is to leave the planet a little better than I came into it.

I walked in my closet one day and I began to ponder “What does it mean to be sustainable?”

I know that commercial farming in a global economy is the leading contributor to climate change, with the meat industry leading the pack by a long-shot. But what about my clothing? Was wearing leather really as bad as eating meat?

The simple answer is… it’s complicated.

Leather is typically a byproduct of the meat industry, that would be thrown away if not used, but what really tips the scale is our high global demand for goods. As our consumer culture drives our purchasing behaviours, we are buying way more than we need. I am an advocate for long wearing, hardy products that stand the test of time. Leather or otherwise, if we purchase less, we demand less of the planet and the market.

Leather: Honouring Life

Leather is one of the most beautiful materials in the world; it ages gracefully, will hold up to elemental forces, and can last decades. When compared to faux leathers, often derived from the oil industry (another catastrophic force to our environment), full grain leather outlasts them all indefinitely. You can moisturize and condition leather over the years, but the same cannot be done to faux leather. Faux leather is known to disintegrate and flake, resulting in the need to purchase more goods and feeding right back into the consumerism and consumer complex.

Does this mean we should jump straight into buying only leather goods? Not necessarily. Not all leather is produced the same, as seen in the below video. Just because something is deemed high quality does not mean that it is.

Credit: Rose Anvil Artisan Leather Goods

The Consumer Product Chain

The consumer product chain is rooted in cost efficiency, bringing the products that we demand to market at the lowest possible cost, thus maximizing return.

To counteract this, consider what it is that you need, and determine what will fulfill this with the most logical sense: a cost-benefit ratio. There’s a great article that touched on the subject over at Heddels, I definitely suggest that you give it a read.

The idea of Cost Per Wear can lend a new mindset to the cost of the things we own. Not to mention the environmental benefits of reduced consumption, operating this way should lead to a cheaper lifestyle overall that has you spending less time shopping…”
– Heddels, Understanding Cost Per Wear

Because companies are selling goods at such a low cost, sometimes of questionable quality, and we continue to buy them, it justifies substandard working conditions and horrendously low wages. We need to demand more from manufacturers and the companies that contract them. 

One of the leading ways we can make an impact is through their pocket books. If profits drive their decisions to produce cheaply, both through labour and materials, it can also drive decision to produce more responsibly.

Standards of Living

With all this being said, I understand affordability is a major factor when consuming products. I don’t know everyone’s financial position but I do know that over consumption is affecting all of us alike.

Feeding into our never-ending desire to quench our consumerism, we will continue to purchase goods until the planet simply cannot handle production anymore.

Much like dietary overconsumption without consciousness is leading to obesity coupled with malnutrition, our overconsumption of finished goods is leading to compromised living conditions for those in vulnerable, developing countries. These developing nations are at the bottom of the production cycle, where the textiles are being produced, products are being finished, or raw materials are being sourced.

“Water is key for life, central to societal development. Water risks affect industrialised and developing economies alike”
– World Economic Forum, 5 Risks from Water Overuse

To produce all of this, water and energy consumption is high and byproducts can be toxic. The communities affected are usually those of lower socio-economic status and thus don’t have the resources to clean their water sources or relocate. This excess water consumption is also destabilizing our water tables and a major contributor to ecological and sociological catastrophe.

My Experience

I’ve lived on both sides of the fence; I used to buy in excess to “fit in”. Though I didn’t have a lot financially, it felt great obtaining something new and looking fresh whenever I stepped out the house. But I realized that, truthfully, none of that was important.

What matters most is that there will be a prosperous tomorrow for all and to continue a healthy relationship with myself. I was seeking outward applause to make up for, what I believed was, a lack of power in my life. Real power is making conscious decisions that genuinely empower yourself and the world.

Sure there are larger things at play, such as corporate and political interests, but our collective efforts have resulted in policy change in the past. We can do this. 

You’re worth more than just a “thing”, an object.

You’ve worked hard to earn your dollars. Purchasing anything is an investment; you’re investing in more freedom, in a specific aesthetic, in creating more energy, etc. Be mindful when parting ways with your money, your time and effort is worth way more than something that will fall apart in less than a year.

Forged in Br(ass)

winner of the #craighillwriteshome contest

Rules: take a Craighill product photo and include a supplementary narrative, in letter format. The letter is to be a pseudo-account of the product personified and it’s ordeal away from home.

Craighill Keychain, everyday carry, with leather hardware and Gerber multitool.

It’s been a good couple years since I’ve found this warm home; this may be due to the posterior situation I find myself in.

These have been both the darkest and lightest days for me. I have shed my layer of brashness but yet I find myself wedged between hard denim and sofa cushions. An image I am sure is hard to fathom but rest assured, you have fashioned me for such interesting times.

I have held strong, hanging onto the relationships made along the way. Gatekeepers, a sharp one named SOG, a multifaceted fellow named Gerber; all swinging on the pendulum of life.

I am called an Everyday Carry but yet I feel without me, everyday could not be carried.

Warm regards,
Wilson K.

More about Craighill:

Craighill is a New York-based design company that takes the everyday mundane and adds thoughtfulness and easiness to it through product design. With beautiful products that withstand the rigours that we expect from ourselves, Craighill creates hardened goods with integrity to persist where others may fail.

“Well designed products can tell a story about their creation and their potential — and by exploring those stories we hope to enrich the lives of the people we reach, and illuminate the magic of the world around us.”
– Craighill Co. –

Embers: Keeping the Creative Alive Amidst Covid-19

I wrote a poem once about keeping my spirit alive – my creative spirit and my spirit of determination.

It can be difficult at times to channel into that aspect when we need to constantly think about all the other real world issues. For the last couple of weeks, covid-19 has ceased regular operations for many of us. This brought various challenges that some have never seen before, and for others, made them worse. Challenges like food insecurity, housing instability, and social isolation.

For those of us who work within the creative sphere, when the hard times hit, we’re often the first affected. We may be on short-term contracts, looking for the next gig, or be a part of a mass lay off.

Sometimes it feels like it’s hard enough justifying why someone needs a creative on their team. Then add on the fact that organizations are being hit with newfound strained budgets; they’re just trying to stay afloat to see a post-coronavirus light. The reality of the creative just got a bit more difficult.

It’s in these moments I find myself asking “Why am I a creative?”

“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”
– Bruce Lee –

Sometimes I have to really dig for this answer. I’ve surrounded myself with many types of people growing up, working in various industries alternative to myself. It’s easy to be dragged by their successes and have that weigh against you. Some work in insurance and government, others in banking and real estate. Though I’ve tried my hand in many of those industries, they don’t quite mesh with me.

After each lesson learned, I repeat the exact same question I started with, “Why am I a creative?”

Under self-induced scrutiny, I try to decipher this map-of-life and figure out the best way to navigate through it. I’m trying to do something I love, pay my bills, and live a fulfilling life. This pulls me in every which direction.

My favourite composer, and jazz great, Charles Mingus said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”

Armed with this statement, I boiled down my answer. My sole responsibility is to keep my creative ember crackling.

During ancient times, in both nomadic and civilized senses, there would be a fire keeper – someone responsible with keeping the embers alive, the flame of society alive. Even for nomadic tribes, as they moved from site to site, the fire keeper would tend to the ember throughout the journey.

In those times, the flame was seen as a symbol of life. It gave us the ability to cook and stay warm, thus extreme care was needed to ensure that it never extinguished. The flame was oft revered as a point of praise and religion.

That is our job as creatives, to keep the ember alive within and wherever we find ourselves. Embers can easily burst into full flames and start a fire but it is difficult to start a fire from nothing.

“Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the mind of his audience.”
– Henry William Thoreau –

Our work is not something to be lost and dealt with haphazardly.

We are not direct sellers, we are not accountants, we are not a part of the legal team.
We are storytellers, illustrators, and capturers of the moment.

Creatives are community builders.

Creativity is not simply a skill used to drive economy, though it very well does. It’s a skill used to connect and unite. Without community, our society is nothing. Without creativity, we talk about nothing.

Our job is to stay grounded in reality but also tap into the endless potential of the world around us. We don’t work in silos, we don’t work unilaterally – we are collaborative with others and the wonders that are encapsulated in the world.

This is why we’re so important – we connect. This is the fire we bring into the world.

Oh and that poem? Here it is.

Ember Ember Ember
Do I feed it and let it burn bright
Or do I let it burn out and meet its plight
What is it about fire
It creates and destroys
Provides fuel and sight
Poof to ash or proof of life
Or life that once was
To produce life once again
Crop over, turn over – my heart’s pounding once again
That’s another flame
But the same game
No shame, this is my own lane
It collects and protects, from crash and collision
You can enter my lane but to exit… That’s imminent
I ride on my own, towards the fireball
No clouds even on a rainy day
I say once again what I said before
Feed it and let it burn bright

Dream on and dream more
If I let it burn out, there’s no bringing back these dreams
It stays alive in me like an alien being
Plant this and care for it
Catch it and keep moving like stairs forward
I can’t afford — to move back
Dreams were caught in this dichotomy
You see, what I sought was what I ought to be
You see, these dreams bring sight to be free
To be a dreamer, brings up the flames inside of me
To which it stays
It tears down the world everyday
To leave a bigger, better, and brighter way

New Year, New Spleen – an Old Year Resolution

Happy New Year y’all! Aside from the typical “New Year, New Me!” exclamations I constantly see flooding my social media and other media outlets, this year I’m going to look inside for my resolution – deep inside. The spleen to be exact.

I’m far removed from my Physiology 103 days (holla at me Ryerson) but a quick little Google search tells us that it’s a key organ for fluid balance and blood filtration. Pretty important stuff seeing how blood is the transporter of oxygen, antibodies, and minerals in the body.

It’s interesting how some of the lessons we can learn from are shown to us in some of the most rudimentary examples. We’ve lived in our bodies since day 1 and when we look inward we see the spleen is a great example of how we should approach life.

It’s like our own internal yin and yang – providing balance as long as we give it the right elements to function properly, such as adequate nutrition, water, and minimal stress. But here’s the caveat: we can live without a spleen, just with a lot more difficulty.

Much like ourselves, we can constantly live in the face of adversity and disability, though it would bring a number factors along with it: imbalance, fear, dissatisfaction, etc.

Is this a thriving environment?

This year, I’m going to dig deep and live my truth and passions, making sure that I am balanced through my daily practices: writing, poetry, yoga, Muay Thai, nature, being mindful of the people I spend my time with. This will help to create a balanced environment, filtering out the barrage of negativity that may come my way.

It’s not to say that negativity won’t come my way, that would be an unreasonable and disillusioned way to think. It is to say that no matter what comes my way, I will be prepared.

I’m looking forward to this year and maintaining the balance needed to facilitate and grow beyond my current ceiling.

How are you planning to maintain balance in 2020?

short escape: a poem

Hardy Lake Provincial Park – Gravenhurst, ON

Have you ever had a moment?
A moment where you close your eyes
And all things come to fruition
When that blink becomes eternal
And everything can come true
Someone in this dream says, “Stop dreaming”
Open your eyes and make it happen