Designer Victoria Ledig has made a collection of handbags using the parts of the cow that are usually discarded by leather manufacturers. Called "Precious Skin," the collection includes a purse made of an ear and a bag handle made of a tail.
The project started when Ledig, a graduate of Design Academy Eindhoven, interned at Ecco Tannery in Dongen, Netherlands. "I started to get a feel for what a fantastic material leather is," Ledig tells Co.Design. She also realized that only the torso is used in the leather industry, and from that, only the perfectly homogenous parts. "I thought that was a pity. I wanted to make a connection with what leather is and where it comes from, in a positive way."
She decided to brave a trip to an industrial slaughterhouse to see what happened to the rest of the animal. She was curious to know whether, after seeing close up how the material is made, she would still want to use leather products.
"In the end I was quite surprised by how fast and efficient everything was," she says in a recent interview with WeHeart. "That’s not to say it wasn’t violent, but maybe the speed makes the procedure easier for everybody to take, including the animals."
She ultimately procured cow parts—tails, ears, faces, and lower legs—that the slaughterhouse had planned to discard or send off to be used in dog food. Back at the tannery, some of her coworkers doubted these parts could be turned into functional accessories. But when they came out of the tanning drum, they were beautiful pieces.
The concept of toting your makeup in a cow’s ear might seem shocking at first—but why is it any weirder than carrying a Kate Spade bag made of its smoothed leather hide?
"Precious Skin" is on view at Self Unself at the Collective Design Fair in New York, an exhibit of work from Design Academy Eindhoven, from May 8th to 11th.