Materials in Focus: Transparent Leather

Transparent Leather Shoe

It was St Francis of Assisi who said: “Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

This quote feels more than a little relevant to the perseverance, curiosity and exploration on display in this partnership between Danish footwear manufacturer Ecco and Iceland-based designer and artist Sruli Recht. Through a meticulous study of ancient Greek and Egyptian tanning techniques, the pair achieved what some might have considered impossible – transparent leather.

Named ‘Apparition’, for its ghostlike appearance, this soft, transparent cow-skin leather is strong and pliable, and can be used for a wide range of applications. Thanks to the translucency from which it draws its name, the leather can be tinted to match almost any colour, producing a waxed, rubber-like sensation in its finished form.

Currently, the material is available in two substances and ten hues, including natural amber, green, black, brown-orange, bone and blood red. All have Apparition's unique translucency. Since it is supplied as flat sheets, the material can be sewn or glued to create 3D forms. It is also possible to print directly onto the leather using a flatbed or dye sublimation printer – although, due to the nature and relative novelty of the surface, testing is recommended.

In terms of creative application, designers could harness Apparition's translucency to create interesting visual effects, either through mono- or multi-material layering. And since it has a highly tactile and decidedly non-synthetic surface, the material has the potential to create unexpected and surprising consumer experiences.

Transparency is a theme that is currently transcending not only design, but also fashion and politics; Apparition is one material innovation bringing transparency to new and unexpected places. With one eye on the work of Recht, who used Apparition to create jackets, bags and shoes as part of his collaboration with Ecco, might it be time to consider what opportunities this material presents for your brand, studio or creative practice?

Red transparent leather jacket
Transparent Leather Black

Posted 20 July, 2019 by Katie Kubrak