‘Leather Naturally!’ campaign discussed

26 May 2010

A group of around thirty people representing different aspects of the leather sector met over lunch during the APLF show in Hong Kong on March 29. The aim of the lunch was to discuss a strategy to launch a worldwide campaign to raise the profile of leather as a luxury and distinctive material to the end-user. The campaign, known as ‘Leather Naturally!’ aims to bring the whole supply chain together from large meat packers to tanners as well as major manufacturers and retailers of products containing leather.

The event was co-ordinated by Michael Redwood, visiting professor in business development in leather, University of Northampton, UK. ‘If we are not careful leather could be in danger of being perceived as a commodity material in the minds of the consumer instead of being a material of luxury and desire. As synthetic materials become more and more sophisticated we as an industry need to be in a position to fight our corner’, said Redwood.

As well as competition from other materials the leather industry has been under attack in recent years from animal rights and environmental pressure groups finding itself on the wrong-end of newspaper, TV and online anti-meat or deforestation campaigns. The industry as such has not had a properly funded and co-ordinated organisation to fight the corner for the sector.

A close look at how other industrial sectors such as wool and cotton managed to improve their status was agreed as a benchmark where leather should look to for information.

The most critical factor discussed was that of funding the ‘Leather Naturally!’ initiative. Most agreed that most of the financial resources in the leather supply-chain are situated with the large meat packers at one end and the large brands/retailers at the other.

So far, several different sectors of the industry have been supportive of the campaign including retail brands, trade associations and fair organisers. Bob Moore, ceo of Shanghai Richina Leather said that he felt confident that some of the major car makers would also be willing to support a promotion of leather as a material of choice if asked.

During the ‘Leather Naturally!’ discussion it was widely agreed that one step would be to form some kind of politically neutral body such as a ‘Leather Education Council’ to inform and promote the use of leather and dispel any misconceptions about the material.

It was also agreed that the main initial thrust of any campaign should be targeted at product and fashion designers and academic institutions where leather competes with textiles, synthetics and other materials.

Redwood was also keen that the campaign should be used to promote leather made by reputable businesses where environmental, social and corporate responsibility and welfare standards are adhered. ‘We cannot allow manufacturers of poor quality leather or those who do not make leather to basic international standards to ride on the back of Leather Naturally!’, he added.

Following on from the meeting in Hong Kong a website is being put together and will be online soon.

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