An iconic fashion brand that appears to be trying to get on the sustainability bandwagon may not be as good for the environment as it claims. One leather expert says that Coachtopia, a sub-brand of Coach, maybe more of an example of greenwashing than of actual sustainability.
Coach frames its Coachtopia brand as helping "accelerate our transition towards a circular economy" and says it's making "upcrafted" leather products made from scraps left over from the production of leather bags. But is the new brand really better than leather?
A leather expert made a TikTok about how Coachtopia is greenwashing.
Tanner Leatherstein, a TikTok creator who analyzes leather products for the public by buying luxury leather products and then taking them apart to see what they're truly made of, shared his take on Coachtopia leather. (His channel's tagline is "Helping people understand and experience leather better!") In the video, he said he had received requests from his viewers to look at Coachtopia, so he bought the Coachtopia Ergo shoulder bag.
Leatherstein started the video by saying, "What's the deal with Coachtopia? Is it a greenwashing marketing gimmick? Or a sincere effort to make leathercraft better?" Leatherstein then said he applied acetone to the purse and removed the outer layer, which turned out to be plastic made to look like leather.
While this TikTok creator is an expert in real leather and not looking to sway anyone to vegan leather alternatives, he did shine a light on the fact that Coachtopia isn't as forthcoming about the brand's materials. He said on the video, "The name and the descriptions are quite misleading."
Perhaps the best part of Leatherstein's Coachtopia video is when he states, "This is the IKEA particle board of leathers." Calling the texture of the bag "disappointingly plasticky," it's clear that he wasn't impressed with the quality of the handbag.
TikTok viewers chimed in with their own disappointment. One said, "I was under the impression that it was made from the extra scraps of other bags they’ve made, sadly not.” That would indeed be an improvement over using new leather or plastic. Another commented, "This is disappointing and sneaky of them. thanks for reviewing!"
"Isn’t Coach one of the companies that slashes and dumps bags in the garbage?" one commenter said, referring to a TikTok that called out Coach in the past for destroying unsold merchandise.
Leather is an extremely environmentally harmful material.
The point of Leatherstein's TikTok was primarily that Coach should be more transparent about its Coachtopia materials so that consumers know if they're getting a more sustainable product rather than being greenwashed. He also suggested these purses should be cheaper since they're not real recycled leather.
However, it's important that people know just how much environmental damage the leather industry causes. Here's a quick summary of some of the problems with leather, per a Collective Fashion Justice report:
- Toxic tanning chemicals
- Leather helping subsidize the beef industry (rather than being a mere byproduct)
- Land use and deforestation
- High carbon impact of cow leather
- High water use of cattle
- Pollution of waterways due to cows