Hidenet’s Editor-in-Chief and CEO, Vera Dordick, writes that as the leather industry grapples with sustainability and transparency, a new supply chain is on the rise. Calling itself the “leather industry’s first and only transparent supply chain,” BEHUMANE is following a different process. “This supply chain is a brand’s guarantee that a product directly supports farmers who are taking good care of animals and the environment,” says Danielle Dotzenrod, founder of BEHUMANE, a new model for sourcing leather.
Dotzenrod’s company is different because it buys the hides directly and sells them to brands, making traceability front and center. “We’re buying from farmers who are already largely animal-welfare driven,” she says. This direct approach ensures the source and brings awareness to the good farmers. “The traceability is already there for the meat, so it’s a logical extension to apply it to leather.” Having grown up on a dairy farm in Iowa, Dotzenrod later moved to New York and Los Angeles, where the idea for this new type of supply chain came from the food industry. “In LA, I watched consumers increasingly focused on where food comes from and I thought ‘This should be happening in fashion!’” But it won’t happen with the way the supply chain currently operates, she said, leading her to launch this innovative venture.
But will brands bite? They already are. Dotzenrod says that BEHUMANE is in negotiation with a range of brands, from big names to smaller boutique lines. “One brand is already making big changes to work with us,” she says. Dotzenrod says that she is also open to working with tanneries, brokers — anyone in the leather industry looking to improve their supply chain. As we already know, consumer demands for traceability will only increase. “We can’t expect consumers to make better decisions if there aren’t products on the shelf,” she adds. And while a variety of certifications already exist, there is a lot of “certification confusion” and a lack of enforcement, she notes. And speaking of consumers, Dotzenrod feels there is still a lot of room for positive consumer education. “Part of the reason consumers turned away from leather is because the industry hadn’t done a good job showing that it is sustainable. We have to educate the consumer that if you eat meat, you have a responsibility to buy leather,” she says. “It should be nose-to-tail use of the cow.”