Leather painting has a long history dating back to ancient civilizations such as Egypt and Rome, where leather was often decorated with colorful designs and images. During the Middle Ages, leather was commonly painted with intricate designs for use in armor and clothing. But it was in the early 20th century, when a variety of commercial leather paints, which allowed for more vibrant and long-lasting colors on leather goods such as shoes, jackets, and handbags, that leather painting became big business.
Cut to 2023, and leather painting is more popular than ever, with everyone from independent fashion designers to craft enthusiasts to people who just like experimenting with their clothes getting in on the action. This article will take a look at three reasons why leather painting is having such a fashion moment right now.
By providing a platform for artists and enthusiasts to share their work and connect with others interested in the craft, social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Pinterest are making it easier than ever for budding leather artists to showcase their unique techniques and finished products, which in turn is inspiring others to try leather painting themselves.
Customizing leather clothing has proven to be particularly popular on social media, as it allows individuals to express their unique sense of style and personality by creating clothing items that are tailored to their specific tastes. This can appeal to those who want to stand out and differentiate themselves from mass-produced fashion. Leather painting has been particularly popular with young social media fashion designers who are interested in punk and rock subcultures, with designers such as Claire Barrow making a name for herself with her hand-painted leather jackets.
The other advantage of social media is that it can serve as a marketplace for artists to sell their work directly to customers, bypassing traditional retail channels. Indeed, the rise of social media influencers and online communities centered around fashion and style has created a culture of sharing and inspiration, making it easier than ever to find and connect with like-minded individuals who share a passion for customization and personalization.
The DIY Fashion Movement
The advent of social media dovetailed with a growing interest in DIY (Do it Yourself) fashion, which has its roots in the punk subculture of the 1970s. At that time, punk musicians and fans created their own clothing, often using unconventional materials such as safety pins, leather, and denim, to create distinctive and anti-establishment looks. The DIY ethos of punk fashion rejected mainstream and consumer culture and emphasized individual creativity and self-expression.
The DIY fashion movement gained wider popularity in the 1990s with the rise of alternative fashion and the grunge movement. Still, increasingly DIY fashion was becoming more widely adopted by anyone interested in living a DIY lifestyle and creating homemade crafts and goods, gardening, and other forms of self-sufficiency.
As mentioned earlier, the advent of social media has allowed the popularity of DIY fashion to grow even more exponentially, and, as in the 70s, leather painting is still one of the most exciting and vibrant areas of the movement.
Painting leather shoes and sneakers, in particular, is one of the most popular trends, with Do-it-Yourselfers using paints like Angelus Shoe Paint to customize, repurpose and revive old shoes. Additionally, the accessibility of materials and tutorials for painting leather shoes online has made it easier for people to try this DIY technique and express their creativity.
Another reason leather painting is having a moment is that its part of the sustainable fashion movement. Repurposing and upcycling old or worn-out leather clothes helps to reduce the amount of waste that would otherwise end up in landfills.
Secondly, painting leather shoes instead of buying new ones helps reduce the demand for new leather products, which can contribute to a greener fashion industry. Indeed, Oxfam recently claimed that embracing second-hand clothing is the answer to sustainable fashion. How better to freshen and individualize a second-hand leather jacket than to paint your own unique artistic designs on it?