The Origins of the Design Challenge

Smit & Zoon's mission is to "create a socially and environmentally sustainable leather value chain by 2025". We believe that an important part of achieving this mission starts internally. Therefore, internal and mutual involvement and the sharing of knowledge about sustainable solutions is essential.

A wild idea to organize an internal competition, with the aim to develop “the most sustainable tanning solution", was born and a Smit & Zoon Design Challenge working group was formed to develop a concept.

The working group gradually realized that not only sharing knowledge but also education about leather and the tanning process is essential. There’s still a lot of misconception about the leather product, although it is such a beautiful and sustainable by-product of the meat industry. Smit & Zoon realized that there is still a long way to go in improving the image of leather, and the best way to start is by taking brands and consumers by the hand and educating them about the sustainability of our products. Smit & Zoon mainly wanted to appeal to a younger generation, and within that age category, a group that is demonstrably interested in a material like leather. An obvious connection is Arsutoria School in Milan, Italy, an institute that educates young people to design shoes, in the broadest sense of the word.

Smit & Zoon reached out to Arsutoria School and collaboration was quickly agreed upon.There is a lot of logic in this coalition: sustainability is high on the agenda of both organizations. They both have a passion for leather. They are keen on transparency. In short: Arsutoria’s education with an eye for quality and design fits perfectly with Smit & Zoon’s passion for sustainable leather.

Smit & Zoon and Arsutoria School have turned the idea of ​​an internal competition into the Design Challenge as it exists today.

It’s a collaboration that both parties are very proud of, leading to co-creation on a high level.