Sustainability has become a bit of a buzzword in recent times, rendering its meaning increasingly difficult to discern. More and more brands are touting themselves as sustainable, but total transparency is hard to come by and evidence of any real action is rare. Needless to say, frustration is rife within the fashion industry – which is why it is so refreshing to encounter labels championing sustainability beyond a simple mission statement. Enter Dalgado: founded only last year by brothers René and Jan Jülicher, the Düsseldorf-based leather accessories brand has already made a name for itself as a leader in sustainable luxury. It prides itself on its exclusive sourcing, ethical and eco-friendly production processes and clean, minimalist design.
The brand’s genesis came from a desire to counteract the industry’s black and white approach to luxury fashion. “My brother and I have always had a passion for fashion but were only very rarely satisfied with the price-quality ratio and the amount of information regarding input materials offered by other brands,” says Jan. “We thought there had to be a better way, which is why we decided to found Dalgado in 2017. By choosing a direct-to-consumer approach, we cut out unnecessary costs, allowing us to create luxury accessories sold at fair prices. Further, we decided to become very transparent about our materials, suppliers, and manufacturing as we strongly believe that our customers have the right to know exactly what they are buying.”
Whilst Dalgado has recently expanded its range to also include gloves, premium quality handcrafted belts are its backbone, and René and Jan are intent on bringing focus to the oft-underestimated significance of the humble belt within the context of a man’s wardrobe. “Despite the everyday need for them in our lives, belts aren’t generally the first thing on people’s minds,” says Jan. “Belts have always been seen more as a functional side-product rather than an accessory capable of making a style statement… We want to change that notion, especially as we believe that a belt – despite being small in size – can make or break an outfit. Belts tie together an outfit and can either support the overall look of an outfit or reveal that someone didn’t pay attention to the details.”
Such details are crucial to Dalgado’s design philosophy: it’s the little things, like the intricate hand braiding of full-grain vegetable-tanned leather and the unique shaping and galvanisation of solid brass buckles that take precedence over fussy stylistic elements. This unpretentious approach stems from a deep-seated devotion to minimalism and an appreciation for simplicity. René and Jan grew up surrounded by designer furniture and modern architecture and quickly developed a taste for an understated Scandinavian aesthetic. “It speaks to us on a design level but also on a life philosophy level,” says Jan. “You don’t need all that much but the things you do have must be intentional and of high quality. In our hectic world of constant noise and stress, minimalism offers a very welcoming and needed source for quietness and peace of mind.”
In keeping with this mindful sustainability-centred philosophy, Dalgado’s products are all crafted in family-owned factories by artisans with hundreds of years of combined experience. All processes are carefully controlled and Jan and René ensure that they visit the factories and tanneries personally, making it their priority to form relationships with the owners and employees. “These artisans have not only developed a great level of craftsmanship but also a profound pride for their craft and the products they create,” says Jan. Keeping production limited to Europe ensures a lower ecological footprint and adherence to strict sustainability guidelines. “Naturally, it’s no secret that the leather industry has a heavy footprint on the environment,” he says. “That’s why choosing partners who share our passion for quality and green production is crucial. Europe is without a doubt the powerhouse for high-quality fashion and so it only made sense to us to stick to local family-run tanneries in France, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands.”
Ultimately, the label is an active denouncement of fast fashion, of which Jan makes no secret of detesting, having witnessed first-hand on his travels the devastating effects of poor manufacturing standards on the environment. “Fast fashion not only creates an incredibly large amount of textile waste but also crushes the very idea of style,” he says. “To me, slow fashion is the very opposite of that. It is fashion which was created with the intent to be timeless in its design and made to last. People who enjoy slow fashion pick and choose their pieces carefully and cherish the materials and craftsmanship that goes into creating them. They use clothing as a chance to express themselves.”