Alice Robinson and Sara Grady are pioneers. They have created a traceable supply chain to produce leather entirely from British livestock that is reared according to the principles of regenerative farming.
Pictured: Alice Robinson and Sara Grady. Photo by Jason Lowe
OUR VISION IS TO CREATE LEATHER FROM ANIMALS RAISED ON FARMS THAT ARE REGENERATING LAND AND ECOSYSTEMS
The partnership between the two women was solidified in 2020 and unites Sara’s previous work in ethical, sustainable farming practices in the US and the UK, with Alice’s background in fashion design that explores the connection between leather goods and livestock farming.
The result is a formidable knowledge base and a vision to connect leather to regenerative agriculture; they are bringing a traceability approach with deep integrity to leather supply in the UK. There is already real appetite for their product from makers and craftspeople as well as major brands and designers.
We live in a time of questioning how the food we eat is farmed and produced. The same is now happening with leather as people want to know how the animal has been raised and what its impact is on the environment: the story behind the bag, the purse, the shoes or leather jacket.
Their idea to provide designers with leather that aligns with their values grew out of Alice’s experience while studying fashion design, searching for a source of leather she could be confident came from farms with ethical and ecological practices. Her resulting work garnered a reputation as a pioneer demonstrating sustainable, responsible farm-to-fashion design practice.
Her MA at the Royal College of Art saw her continue this journey. Her collection 11458 was made with the materials and fibres of one sheep (sheep number 11458) from a farm close to her childhood home in Shropshire. She inverted the conventional approach to design, allowing the animal and the materials it provides to dictate her output, rather than the other way round. The result is a collection, acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2020, that includes woollen clothing and an incredibly stylish handbag, wallet and shoes in a buttery pale tan sheep leather.
Sara’s experience in regenerative farming and agriculture in the US saw her witness the highest standards of animal welfare and responsible ecological practices. With that came a commitment to utilising all parts of the animal, yet the hides disappeared within a commoditised supply chain that is disconnected from farms. This gave birth to the idea of creating a source of leather that is truly connected to place.
Grady + Robinson secure their hides from farms that are certified by the Pasture-fed Livestock Association or the Savory Institute – two bodies that are dedicated to raising animals on pasture in high welfare conditions with ecological management practices. Working with some of the UK’s craft tanneries that use traditional, vegetable tanning techniques, Grady + Robinson supply finished bovine and sheep leather that can be traced to its farm origins agricultural practices.
The two women are already making ripples in an industry that is ripe for change. Alice Robinson is returning to her design practice; she is part of a wider disruption sweeping the industry. She talks of rejecting the cycle of regular collections and making only when she knows there is a demand for her creations. Together Sara and Alice are creating a new business to offer traceable leather to other designers, including custom finishing for brands that require a particular style. Their enterprise will meet the demand for leather that is traceable to exemplary agriculture and expresses the guiding principles and passion that both women bring to this initiative.