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Satchel firm replaces leather with bags of pineapple leaves

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Steve Greenhalgh of The Original Satchel Company with range made from pineapple leaves. Picture: Keith Heppell
Steve Greenhalgh of The Original Satchel Company with range made from pineapple leaves. Picture: Keith Heppell

The Original Satchel Store has made its last leather bag.

“In the exciting rush to build an international business, we admit that we overlooked the horrendous back-story that is leather production,” says director Steve Greenhalgh. “We concentrated our attention on the gorgeous end-product rather than the ugly process and cruel story behind leather.”

Based in Impington, the company was founded eight years ago and has since made thousands of leather bags sold around the world.

Instead of using animal skins, the company will give its entire production over to making vegan bags and accessories made from pineapple leaves which are “easy to work with, sustainable, environmentally friendly and do not harm the planet”.

There was no single reason to make the switch, Steve says – but a couple of incidents tipped the balance.

“One of our team found themselves driving behind a double decker lorry transporting animals,” Steve explained. “As it lurched round a roundabout, slurry – a mixture of urine and faeces – cascaded out of the side of the wagon. As they overtook the wagon, they could hear the cries of the animals in distress.

“On another occasion, one of our colleagues returned from Fez in Morocco with photographs of men up to their waists in vats containing a mixture of cow urine, quicklime, water and salt used to remove flesh off hides.”

The outcome is that “these are not not fashion statements that we can turn a blind eye to any longer”.

Soft fabric for satchels made from pineapple leaves. Picture: Keith Heppell
Soft fabric for satchels made from pineapple leaves. Picture: Keith Heppell

“They also make beautiful products,” adds Steve of the pineapple solution. “We want to be seen to be working with nature, not against her and we are delighted to have sourced an all-natural product called Pinatex that we can offer to customers with a clear conscience for us and for them. It feels the right thing to do.”

As a product to replace leather, pineapple leaves tick just about every environmentally-friendly box, whereas leather production uses health-damaging chemicals, is harmful to the planet and, of necessity, involves the death of animals.

“There is an alternative that allows customers to be in the vanguard of fashion without it costing the earth or raising serious ethical dilemmas,” said Steve, adding: “We have spent the last year or so looking at alternatives to leather including ‘pleather’ and artificial leather, none of which were acceptable, until we found Pinatex, a material made from pineapple leaves.

“Given the choice was to continue to use animal skins or find an alternative that gave us the same high-quality products without the ethical conflict, we decided to follow the alternative. Not only does leather production cause cruelty to animals, it causes cruelty to people as well.”

The Original Satchel Store will still employ “the same production techniques, the same commitment to UK bag manufacture and the same commitment to high-quality which have made their leather bags so popular around the globe”.

The decision to switch from leather to vegan plant-based material also reflects a growing demand from the company’s customers who “not only want to look good, they want to feel good as well – appearance alone is no longer good enough”.

“Pineapple leaves are a fabulous alternative to leather. They are vegan, environmentally benign, perfect for our product range and, crucially, cruelty free. From now on that will be the direction of travel for the Original Satchel Store.”

Pineapple plant (22304246)
Pineapple plant (22304246)

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