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Better Leather

Smithies Create


Published May 11, 2021

Designer Claire Harper ’11 was first introduced to the craft of leatherworking during her junior year in Florence, when she toured the prestigious Scuola del Cuoio (Leather School).

After graduation she apprenticed at a high-end leather goods studio in Brooklyn, and in 2019 she launched her first collection of ethical leather accessories under a brand called Harper the Label. The collection comprises three minimalist bags—a crossbody, a backpack and a clutch—with prices starting at $485. So, what is “ethical” leather? Harper breaks it down:

""Nontoxic materials. Harper sources leather that is certified chrome-free—tanned without the use of hazardous chemicals and harmful industrial processes.

Domestic manufacturing. Harper the Label pieces are sewn by artisans at a fair-wage workshop in the United States.

Sustainable packaging. Harper uses the greenest possible packaging materials, such as compostable packing tape printed with soy ink. 

Carbon offsetting. Harper buys offsets to balance the carbon in her supply chain, from the methane generated by cows to the greenhouse gases emitted by shipping.

Claire Harper ’11

This story appears as part of the Smithies Create column in the Spring 2021 issue of the Smith Alumnae Quarterly.

Photographs by Mantas Vidutis (above) and Jenna Gundelach (below)