Sustainability Spotlight: LULEA

Today, I had the pleasure of touring a manufacturing facility right outside of Nairobi called LULEA or Luxury Leather.

LULEA manufactures luxury leather goods, specifically bags and wallets.

Edmond Chesneau is the designer and founder. He’s not only creatively talented but also talented in creating social impact in rural communities.

One craftsmen said, “Yes, we all know how to do everything here. I can sew, I can emboss, I can cut, I can run every machine.”

This is an amazing approach to social business. Many NGO’s or other social impact brands don’t offer any training for different skill levels. At Chesneau’s place, he teaches every single employee how to run every single machine. This allows for the employees to obtain a basket full of skills so that they can create their own opportunities someday.

Chesneau began this journey in Ireland. Though French by birth and accent, Chesneau believes he’s a citizen of the world. He’s worked on three continents in his 40+ years of designing, empowering people along the way.

This is what true empowerment looks like.


LULEA has their own brand of bags but they also work with private labels. One of my favorite brands they work with is EDUN. When I was there today, I was able to see a sneak peek of the upcoming Fall/Winter 2018 bag collection. Though my responsibilities were minimal, the craftsmen also let me help assemble a bag. This line is beautiful and complete quality made. From the cutting to the stitching, everything is 100% quality. They use machines to assist them but for the most part, a machine could not produce the quality items that are coming from these craftsmen and women’s hands.

My Opinion: Automation should be there to assist humans with making their jobs easier and less redundant. Touring the LULEA facility allowed me to see the type of automation and the limits of automation we should have in our businesses today; a type of automation that doesn’t take jobs away from people and replace them with machines. Chesneau uses his Irish machines to assist the craftsmen with producing more streamlined items.

LULEA brand bag from 2014

LULEA produces leather goods. There’s still a question of if brands should claim sustainability if they use animal products. Stella McCartney has gone completely vegan with her brand and doesn’t use leather or fur in her designs.

What’s your opinion on the leather matter? Is it OK to use leather goods and still be a socially sustainable brand?

My Opinion: I think it’s fine to use leather as long as the animal wasn’t killed in order to produce the leather. If the animal was killed by natural causes, then I feel that it’s OK to use their leather to make clothing and accessories. However, the process of producing leather is not sustainable and I think we need to look into this a bit further as we develop more sustainable and transparent practices in the fashion supply chain.

I enjoyed my day at LULEA and I’m excited to learn from Mr. Chesneau and to work with him during the rest of my time in Nairobi.

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