Giving value to leather waste: Chanel’s Atelier des Matières

Giving value to leather waste: Chanel’s Atelier des Matières

First: “How can we honor tanners and leather?”. Second: “Enhancement is my obsession”. These are two statements made by Eric Dupont (in photo from, director of Sustainable Development at Chanel. Since 2020, Dupont guides the Atelier des Matières, which is owned by the French brand and was launched in 2018. It is located in Le Meux, in Oise, where 35 people work. It’s goal is the collection and dismantlement of materials to give value and enhance abandoned fashion goods.

Giving value to leather waste

The Atelier des Matières collects prêt-à-porter goods, handbags, small leather goods and shoes, but also unused materials such as leather, and not just from Chanel. It selects them, dismantles them, gets the pieces out and then transforms in other things, thinking of a way they could be used. For example, some leather pieces from a Chanel handbag were delivered to Authentic Material, start-up in Toulouse (partially owned by the Maison), which “micronized them and, by using bio-based polymers, made them into a material that can then be used on hidden areas of shoes or other goods”. Another example: leather waste became knives handles. “We found a way to enhance the value of leather on handbags that would have otherwise never been used”, points out Dupont to Vogue.

Recycling isn’t an attracting verb

Dupont spoke with Hyères’s journalists during the International Festival of Fashion, Photography and Fashion accessories. Here, Atelier des Matières delivered its first circularity prize to designer Sini Saavala. “When collecting products, we start an enhancement process. I don’t like the verb recycling, it’s not an attractive verb. In any case, I think that business tied to circularity will create an entirely new vocabulary”, concludes Dupont.

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