Meet Hafde Tannery, our newest partner in sustainability

We are so excited to introduce the 100% Vegetable-Tanned Collection, the beginning of our transition to using this far more sustainable method of producing leather. This shift centers around our new partner, Hafde Tannery, an innovative operation located on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. 

We had the chance to visit Hafde with Daniel this year to meet their team, see the facilities, and hear about their mission in person. Meeting our partners face-to-face is an incredibly important step in the vetting process and allows us to create a meaningful relationship with the people who are doing work so integral to our business. 

And now a bit about them: the Hafde Tannery is a family-run business managed by three brothers. Our tour guide and one of the three, Hussein Feyssa, is a chemist who earned his degree in Michigan. Hafde only uses leather that is a byproduct of the meat industry and is at the forefront of leather science, not just in Ethiopia, but in the world. 

Photo courtesy of Hafde TanneryHussein Feyssa. Photo Courtesy of Hafde Tannery 

From him we learned that 100% vegetable-tanned leather produced at Hafde reduces the environmental and human impact of this harmful substance by 95%. (We've also seen the worst effects of this process, when the byproduct of tanning with chrome is dumped into waterways, in the eye-opening documentary River Blue.) He also taught us a simple way to test the leather using a match to confirm that the leather we are getting is indeed free of chrome.

Not only does Hafde care about the environmental impact of the industry, but the team has made taking care of their employees a core mission. By providing things like subsidized lunches, transportation, and healthcare access to the 350+ employees, Hafde has shown a commitment a triple-bottom line approach. The business also stays active in the surrounding community by providing book bags to disadvantaged kids and access to clean water in the neighboring town. 

Photo Courtesy of Hafde Tannery 

Photo Courtesy of Hafde Tannery 

Let's just say we're thoroughly convinced that making Hafde our raw material partner is the right move. We've made it our mission to make bags that are more sustainable, made fairly, and on par with Madewell pricing. That's why this move to 100% vegetable-tanned leather is so freaking exciting. 

So go on, shop the collection and tell all your friends that you can have your sustainable fashion cake and eat it too. 

xx Eliza + Olivia