A lively discussion was centred on a presentation by Alan Couldrey, the Asia Pacific CEO of The Brand Union, who gave an indication of the cost and structure of a three to five year programme. This is now being worked on in more detail and the Steering Group will send this out to key stakeholders and manage the responses.

Members of the Interim Steering Group are Reinhard Schneider (Director, German Tanners Association), Elton Hurlow (Global Market Development Manager, Buckman International), Amanda Michel (Director, Leather Wise), Paul Pearson (Secretary, International Council of Tanners), Rachel Garwood (Senior Lecturer, The University of Northampton), Martin Ricker (Editor of Leather International) and Su Chaoying (Secretary General, the China Leather Industry Association (CLIA)). Their first meeting set out a plan to take a detailed look at the structure and financial administration of the programme and how a formally established Steering Committee might best be structured.

The plan suggested involves testing a number of initiatives in the first year while extensive market research gives the programme a better feel for the attitude of young people towards leather in different parts of the world and in different market sectors. Su Chaoying indicated that while leather was selling well to Chinese consumers amongst the young, who were the majority of the customers purchases were related more to the image of the brand than the quality of the leather.

Robert Moore, CEO of SRL from Shanghai and one of the world’s largest tanneries, told a meeting of interested parties that with the present scarcity of hides and raw material prices very high this was the perfect moment to launch a campaign to correctly position leather in the minds of designers and consumers.

A point strongly emphasised in all relevant discussions was that leather is not just a luxury material but also a high performance one. The positioning of leather involves placing leather as a premium material for many high end uses including sports and outdoors. Although luxury is a major element of the leather story but the importance of leather to all consumers stretches much wider.