How did Simetrie begin?
I was looking for solution that married up all my passions for a long time. I was a really creative child which initially sparked my interest to study fashion as it combined my love of drawing and making. Then entering the industry as a bag designer became an internal struggle for me. What seemed like a good match for me creatively, was overturned as I was growing more and more disappointed in the industry I was contributing to. This was mainly due to a lot of environmental, ethical and social issues within the supply chain where typically you have no transparency and therefore have no idea if you are contributing to those negative impacts or not.
A lot of these issues actually stem from a general lack of informed decisions from consumers when it comes to buying and consuming fashion. Issues like excess mass production, overflowing landfill, exploitation of workers, and the environmental impacts of poor production procedures are all in existence because consumers expect more variety of fashion products, at a fast rate, for less money, and have typically found more value in throwing away and buying new rather than mending or taking proper care for what they already own. The fashion industry kind of started this horrible cycle so it is not really the consumer’s fault, but it’s up to the industry to educate consumers back to a neutral position where fashion isn’t treated as a throw away item. So Simétrie began as a way to educate the consumer and offer an ethical and ecological solution for someone seeking good quality leather goods.
Why did you choose to use kangaroo leather for your product ? Is the leather produced in an ethical/sustainable manner ?
For Simétrie products, the only leather I’ll ever use is kangaroo. Kangaroo leather is more environmentally friendly than cow leather or even vegan leather which is almost always made out of plastic based polyurethane (PU) or even worse, polyvinyl chloride (PVC). As kangaroos contribute little-to-no methane, don’t need to be farmed, fed or live transported this makes it a more environmental and ethical choice than cow leather.
Vegan leather whilst more ethical, has problems in the production stage, often releasing harsh chemicals into the environment and is detrimental to the health of workers manufacturing it. The end of the life cycle of a finished good is also problematic as it is a plastic material, more readily cracking and tearing, putting finished goods in the landfill pile much earlier (and sitting there up to 10 times longer) than it’s leather equivalent. Leather is also more easily repairable than PU or PVC due to its unique characteristics as a material, prolonging the use of a product by two or even three times as much, giving much more value to the consumer in the long run.
Kangaroo leather is also highly regulated by the Australian government in a bid to keep tabs on kangaroo populations. By law, you need a permit to harvest the animal and also a permit to trade to overseas customers. We are under application now and will hopefully be sending our bags internationally very soon.
Do you know the leathers full cycle, to ensure no waste?
The kangaroo leather industry goes hand in hand with the kangaroo meat industry which is for human and pet consumption – so the majority of the animal is utilised ensuring not much goes to waste.
What advice would you give to someone looking at making a responsible leather purchase?
The best advice when purchasing any new product is making sure you have exhausted the reuse/repair/recycle options, such as buying second hand or repairing or upcycling what you already own. If you have to buy brand new than at least ensure you are buying long lasting quality, and from a brand that is contributing to change in some way. With leather products specifically, vegetable tanned is a much better environmental purchase than chrome tanned leathers too, as the wastewater from the latter process contains heavy metals that ends up in our planet’s waterways.
Simetrie offers workshops at your Melbourne studio, how important for Simetrie is it to engage with the consumer in this way ?
Teaching workshops came about mainly from my love of making and it’s connection to making you feel good when you make something new. I am showing my workshop participants exactly how our products are made, and equipping them with the skills to make their own products and repairs too. The added benefit of teaching my process to someone is that I am helping consumers make more informed decisions when they buy and consume fashion products, so with the spread of information I am hopefully helping to break the fast fashion trend and encouraging people to consume more slowly - which will really benefit the environment and supply chain issues in the long run. The workshops are also really fun, and a great way to express your creativity and individual style, which has so many benefits for someone’s self-worth too.
Photographer & Videographer – Drew Wheeler @drewbydrewby
Models – Billie @billie_smolsy_ & Bela @bela_ph from IMG @imgmodels
Art Director – Candice Agius @thecandyfeed
Stylist – Thea Blocksidge @theabebe
Hair & Makeup – Georgia Ramman @georgiaramman
Photo Assistant – Enrico Kas @enricokas
Floral Artist – Hattie Molloy @hattiemolloy