A conversation on sustainability with co-Founder and Creative Director Maj-La Pizzelli
Q How come sustainability is so important to ATP Atelier?
Sustainability has been our 'why?', or reason to be, since day one. When founding ATP Atelier, I had no interest in putting yet another brand on the market just because. After working at Filippa K for so many years, initiating their work with sustainability, I realized there was no one focusing on high quality leather goods from that same standpoint. Our mission then became to challenge the concept of luxury - to make it smart, not redundant.
The first shoe we ever made was in vegetable tanned vacchetta. Today the majority of our pieces (85%) are made from that same material - it's the backbone of every ATP Atelier collection.
Q How are the materials that you work with more sustainable than others?
Leather products, like ours, treated with natural vegetable tannins are biodegradable and can be easily discarded at the end of their natural life. Vegetable-tanned leather does not contain any toxic substance such as azo-dyes, nickel, PCP or chrome VI.
And we're always eager to learn more and test out new ideas, of which our metal free nappa, is a great example. The nappa leather is created through a unique, still patent-pending process, based on a rapidly decomposing organic chemical. The tanning process is non-polluting and has a very low impact on the environment. Also, virtually all of the water (98%) used is recycled.
Our suede or printed leathers are not treated with natural tannins – simply because we have not yet developed a good way of doing so. But, they’re treated in a way that has minimal impact on the environment, for example by only employing factories that use closed-loop water systems.
Q How do you justify working in leather and not a vegan alternative?
The tanneries we employ reclaim hides from the food industry, so the leather used to make
ATP Atelier items are a bi-product and prevent waste to a very large degree. Leather is also a very durable material, much more so than vegan alternatives which means it lasts longer and promotes a slow fashion cycle. Another unfortunate fact is that most of the vegan options are oil based, often plastic or other materials, that we just can’t justify as being more sustainable. This means that, from our point of view, leather is the more sustainable option due to the fact that you can wear the same product for many years, before it breaks. It also, of course, has the look and feel to it that is completely unbeatable. Going forward, we’ll see how things develop. Waste from the meat industry might be reduced due to our own diminishing consumption and new technology will probably enable the production of new and exciting, more sustainable, materials.
Q Who are your suppliers?
We have a very close and long standing relationship with our suppliers. We work with what Italians call laboratori, small factories with up to 20 employees. We want to protect the Italian artisanal tradition of hand made leather goods, that has been handed down for generations, to not promote mass production. This is not only socially sustainable but also allows us to have very short lead times. That in turn means that we never have to produce more than we actually know for sure we will need. Since all our suppliers are located in Italy, and we only work with hides from within the EU, there's a very high traceability and transparency of the raw materials.
Q How does your design process look, from a sustainable standpoint?
It’s obvious that the most sustainable pieces are those that last longer than one season, both physically, but also from an aesthetic point of view. We work with many of the same lasts and shapes, updating them slightly from season to season. We never follow short term trends, we want our pieces to feel relevant for many years to come. We also continually educate our customers (both retailers and end-customers) in how to care for their shoes and bags. We want them to show their ATP Atelier items a lot of love, so they can age beautifully, just like their owners.