Jean-Luc Chirat, formerly with Mercier Freres in France and in recent years living in China where among other things he and his wife represented Leather International, died suddenly earlier this year. His Chinese wife Zhao Xiao Yan (Shelley) continues to represent us.

Jean-Luc was born near Annonay in 1950 which at that time had a strong leather industry. While still a student, Jean-Luc would work in one of the tanneries during his vacation. His constancy and application to work, his curiosity to learn all about leather led the director of the factory to hire him. While he was working he also studied at the tannery school to become a leather specialist and some years later he was hired by Mercier Freres.

Because of his leather knowledge and his natural gift for mechanics he travelled all round the world setting up Mercier machines. In 1983 he started travelling through China and Southern Asia and after four years had built up a good business for Mercier Freres in the region. He decided to start his own company, trading in China, and sharing his time between France and his new country.

In 1999 life took a new turn. Jacques Valat, who had taken over Extruflex two years earlier, asked Jean-Luc to sell Extruflex products in China and they decided to set up a new company in China to do this. Valat writes: ‘The risk was great and the challenge quite difficult to be fulfilled. I proposed that Jean-Luc take it and he accepted the challenge.

‘While the town of Xiaolan was constructing a new building fully dedicated to our manufacturing Jean-Luc spent some months in our main factory in France learning about the manufacture of pvc. The factory will reach full capacity of 6,000 tons in 2008. Next year the factory should become the most important soft pvc producer in the world.

‘To construct a factory from nothing and build a successful business in just three years was a bet that Jean-Luc had decided to win. He did it. This is the result of the work and the eclectic skills of Jean-Luc. As all human beings Jean-Luc has always been living with two opposite horizons in view: The passion to move, the constancy to come back.

Didier Chambon, formerly with Mercier Freres, then Mercier Turner and now owner of Turner, writes: ‘After working for so many years with Jean-Luc, it was very sad for me to lose him as we always had a very friendly relationship. Jean-Luc probably joined the Mercier team in 1973 (I am not quite sure about the exact year as I only joined the company in 1977).

‘His first job in Mercier was in the technical assistance department, which meant that he started travelling all over the world to install the machines and give technical assistance to our customers. I remember he was always very courageous, not afraid of anything, always volunteering for difficult missions.

‘He joined the commercial team of Mercier in 1981 or 1982 and he was attending all the Asian markets as sales manager, countries which he loved so much. He was very efficient for the company and contributed a lot to its reputation.

He voluntarily left the company in 1993 and it was a big loss.

‘For the rest, you knew Jean-Luc very well and I am sure you will find the right words to describe this uncommon and charismatic personality.’

* I met Jean-Luc many times over the years, in France when he was with Mercier Freres, in India where he was selling tanning machinery manufactured in China, and lately in China where he made his home. It was always a pleasure to meet with this larger than life character. I cannot improve on the final words expressed by Chambon (Editor).