Friends reunited - memories of Leather International

15 March 2017

Five luminaries of Leather International past and present recall some of their favourite memories.

Championing new materials - Mike Redwood

I first saw yak leather developed by ECCO at a show in Germany in 2006 and I was delighted to write about it. The story encapsulated so much of what I felt the industry should have been doing. Hides and skins are not a commodity just to be converted into leather. They are a natural material, full of character and with physical properties that should be understood, respected and, where appropriate, be enhanced.This was ECCO’s approach with the yak. The company had looked beyond the scars that showed what a tough life the animals endured into the potential performance of the material itself, and how this could be made to fit customers’ needs.

The ‘unleash your inner Sherpa’ campaign took damaged, full-grain yak to consumers in hill-walking boots, to which the look and performance were perfectly suited. It was a big success and ECCO went on to put yak in other categories thought only suited to pigmented leathers, plastic or full-grain bovine. I am a satisfied owner of two pairs of such boots and the chance to explain my understanding of the concept in articles—this particular one for Shelagh Davy—was much appreciated. The industry needs to focus more on innovation and marketing, and this was a perfect example.

A reliable read - Don Ohsman

I am pleased to have been associated with Leather International for more years than I can remember. Each issue has contained my View from the US, and in recent years, the monthly extracts from Hidenet’s global report has enabled readers to consider new avenues of sourcing, while providing a rich source of knowledge about the international markets in which they are all involved.

There have been many changes in the leathermaking complex over the years, and there have been good times and bad. Through it all, Leather International has continued to serve its readers by offering the information they need, when they need it. Industry members know that they can rely on every monthly issue to contain information that is important to their endeavours.  This includes tanners, traders, chemical companies, and anyone associated in any way with the leather industry. Congratulations to Leather International on its 150th birthday!

A force for change – Shelagh Davy

When I joined Leather International in 1974, the exhibitions of note were the Semaine Internationale du Cuir in Paris. and Lineapelle. APLF was waiting in the wings, and in 1987, I was on the Leather International stand in Hong Kong when I got the news that I had been appointed editor.

When Leather International celebrated its 125th anniversary, it took a red, double-decker London bus to the 50th Semaine du Cuir. Sadly, this was the beginning of the end for the Paris show. The All China Leather Exhibition (ACLE) has consolidated the Chinese success in the fair calendar and, after a long wait, India’s IILF has regrouped in a new centre just outside Chennai.

Many western tanners tried to counteract the inevitable move to the east with offshore manufacturing and started up joint ventures in China. While some were successful, many got their fingers burned. Despite this, looking to the long-term future, ECCO opened its most recent tannery in Xiamen, China, in 2008. Two decades earlier, Karl Toosbuy told the International Council of Tanners that they were not providing the leathers or the service that ECCO required. He warned them that ECCO would tan its own leather. And it did.

Fearless campaigning – Sam Setter

My sincerest congratulations to Leather International on its 150th anniversary. I (obviously) don’t remember the debut issue, but I do remember the first Limeblast, which was titled ‘What’s new under the drum’, and was published in the August 1998 edition. Limeblast was conceived between Shelagh Davy and me after she insisted I should write a column once in a while. That once in a while became monthly, and lasted for 181 editions The idea was to bring out controversial matters in the industry, and I think we succeeded.

Despite its shortcomings, the leather industry does many positive things, most of which are barely recognised. I have particularly tackled the unwarranted attacks by pressure groups or other, high-profile organisations or individuals who make uninformed attacks on our industry and against whom we are incapable to react. I can look back at a wonderful time with Leather International and the various editors I have served, whom I thank for their loyal support, particularly Shelagh and Carl, with whom I remain in contact. Many happy returns to Leather International!

Foreign adventures -  Robert Higham

My years in an editorial capacity (1969–1984), saw an acceleration in leather and leather products manufactured in many third-world countries, which had formerly been sources of raw hides and skins for Europe and North America. Consequently, there was a decline in these industries in much of the developed world. As editor, not only did I travel extensively in Latin America and Asia, but I also provided study papers for three UN organisations.

The most vivid traveller’s tale I can recount was a visit to Afghanistan en route to Pakistan in 1979. This was two weeks before the Russian invasion, but Kabul already had a strong Soviet presence. The rooms at the hotel were bugged, so I had to interview the German tannery director while he drove me round Kabul in his car. My years with Leather International were certainly some of the most interesting and eventful in my life and I am thankful for the opportunity to have served the journal and the industry.

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