Benjamin Chan, founder of Grams28 shares how his brand transparently and ethically sources and produces its heritage pieces.
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In sustainable fashion, leather is a hotly debated subject. It’s something we’ve delved into on the Wellness Feed before, as it stands at the center of many conversations around sustainable production, ethical production, and animal welfare.
I personally have had the opportunity to try out a wallet made from apple leather and have spoken with founders of brands that use alternative and vegan leathers and ethically sourced leathers.
I recently had the opportunity to get to know a new-to-me sustainable leather goods company, Grams28. I had the pleasure of trying out two of their products, Essential Sling and the 114 Leather Folio, as well as interviewing Benjamin Chan, the founder of Grams28.
157 Essential Sling
Handmade in Italy and certified environmental tanning. $249 ($199 Sale)
As for the products, the sling bag is sleek and compact. I’ve had no trouble keeping my wallet, headphone carrying case, chapstick, or phone in it as needed. The bag is also very eye-catching. It has prompted conversations with strangers on the street and friends alike. To me, this is an excellent way for an ethically and sustainably minded consumer like myself to get in on the men’s shoulder bag trend, which has dominated streetwear and runways over the past couple of years.
Beyond style and size, the strap is adjustable and extremely comfortable, no matter how tight you have it to your body. As someone with broad shoulders, I have had to troubleshoot the length of the strap a bit, so I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing future versions of this bag with different sizes of adjustable straps. But for now, it has become a regular addition to my outfits whether I’m going to a concert, a coffee shop, the grocery store, or the office. It is, to me, what I want out of an accessory–stylish, but extremely utilitarian.
The leather folio, which is sold in a variety of sizes to fit whatever machine you have, has been an equally great convenience for me. It’s durable and sleek, the kind of thing I feel very comfortable carrying my laptop in even if I’m taking it out of my apartment on its own. The bag has pockets that are well-sized to fit cords, small notepads, or pens and pencils. And what’s more, it is really quite stylish. There’s something undeniably eye-catching about black leather when done right and the products by Grams(28) are done right.
Grams(28) also sells other sizes of sling bags and tech folios, as well as briefcases, wallets, phone cases, and other organizational and lifestyle leather goods in black, olive, dark blue, and fossil gray.
And now for my interview with Benjamin Chan:
Why do you choose to use full-grain leather versus other types of leather?
Full-grain leather is the highest quality leather available. It’s made from the topmost layer of the animal hide, just under the hair – and is therefore extremely durable and strong. It has been exposed to the elements and is very characteristic, each hide with its own unique marks and buffs. Even though it is difficult to work with this layer of hide, we insist on full-grain leather because of its unparalleled quality. With proper care, full-grain leather can easily last for 20-30 years or more.
We can use top-grain leather and PU leather as a comparison. Top grain leather is leather where the topmost layer of the hide is shaved off. While this can remove visual irregularities (which we prize due to its authenticity), it also means that top-grain leather is far less durable. Compared to the longevity of full-grain leather, it can only last 8-10 years. PU leather, which isn’t actual leather but imitation leather, cracks easily over time and can only last about 18 months on average.
How is your leather sourced and what do you look for or–did you look for–when determining your leather suppliers?
We source our materials while keeping strict standards in mind. For leather suppliers, we look into the environmental certifications associated with the tannery and perform site visits to further observe their process. Since we want to ensure that the leather has been produced ethically and guarantee that customers are receiving the highest quality products possible, we only work with Italian tanneries as they are under the European Union’s labor law protection.
Outside of leather, what other materials do you use in your products and how are those sourced?
While leather is our main material, we also work with other components, primarily zippers and fabric. The process for sourcing these materials is by and large the same as our process for leather. Our central criteria for these would include durability, general quality, aesthetics and ethics.
Grams28 114 Leather Folio
Made from quality full-grain leather that will last for decades. $189 ($151 Sale)
Outside of sourcing, what sustainable and ethical considerations and initiatives does GRAMS28 focus on?
One of the biggest considerations we have is being responsible for our creations. Since we made the product, we will be responsible for it even after it is delivered to our customers. This is why we have a lifetime warranty on our products and try to ensure that only high quality products are made and shipped to our customers. If a customer needs to repair or replace any component of the bag in the future, we’re also willing to do so.
Does GRAMS28 have any sustainability-related goals looking toward 2024?
I believe that we’re currently on the right track: we hope to continue our central goal of enhancing our quality standards and offering repair services for all of our products. We are also hoping to introduce more durable fabric into our products for more heavy use cases, for instance long-term travel.
At GRAMS28 we deeply value transparency. We will continue to use only the best quality materials possible to inspire confidence in our customers instead of partaking in greenwashing practices like opting for dubiously produced vegan leather with unclear origins.
From your experience in the industry, are there any sustainable or ethical trends you see or would like to see in the leather industry?
I want to see more transparency about the material – “leather” – itself. Especially with different types of vegan leather entering the market in recent years, there is a lack of general knowledge of how it compares to real leather and what it is made of.
For example, on the topic of durability and biodegradability, there are many misconceptions surrounding vegan leather. Vegan leather is far less durable than real leather, and the production process behind vegan leather is often very chemical-heavy and thus can be damaging to the environment. I think that customers deserve to know the qualities and processes behind the products that they are buying, which is why we always strive to provide this information freely on our website.