Leather Naturally! gains momentum

27 September 2010

People in the leather industry have been saying for years that we need a non-political, non-partisan organisation to globally support the industry and promote leather as a material

On August 31, prior to the ACLE show in Shanghai, Leather International, with the permission of those who are informally spearheading Leather Naturally! hosted a dinner for around 40 people representing tanners, meat packers, chemical and machinery suppliers and end-user brands at the Hilton Hotel, Shanghai.
Some elements of the industry were supported more than others but outside of those that attended we also contacted many more ‘big names and brands’ who although could not attend the dinner were, almost without exception, very interested in the general concept of Leather Naturally! and have asked to be kept up to speed with its progress.

For those of you who are unaware of what Leather Naturally! is or should we say could be, it aims to be a champion of real leather for all those businesses who’s livelihoods depend on it. The actual remit of Leather Naturally! is still up for discussion but from the feedback received so far it is generally agreed that it should defend leather against synthetic and faux materials. It should act as an international voice against its critics such as campaign groups, animal rights and misinformed celebrities. The umbrella campaign could also co-ordinate training and education of stylists and designers of leather products in collaboration with national and regional associations.
Following the dinner and the official press launch during the ACLE on September 1, a number of serious offers of support have been suggested from leading meat packers, tanners, chemical suppliers, trade show organisers and global brands who, if correctly organised, would contribute financially to getting the campaign off the ground.
Feedback from the dinner offers suggestions such as a ‘hide levy’ that could be introduced of say 1 or 2 cents a hide towards the campaign. The campaign may also be financed by stakeholder subscriptions and donations.
During the official press conference launch, which was presented by Mike Redwood, both the China Leather Industry Association and the ICT said that they would support the initiative. This was most welcomed and for the campaign to be successful it requires the support of nations such as China, Italy, India and Brazil.
However, Leather Naturally! is not intended to be an exclusive club. It has no boundaries or borders or exclusions from within the industry. If you’re in some way connected to the leather business then you have an interest in Leather Naturally! and you can join in.
Mike Redwood has set-up a website www.leathernaturally.org which gives more information on what is still an embryonic campaign. But from tiny seeds grow giant oaks.
During the Leather Naturally! dinner Mike Redwood, Dietrich Tegtmeyer, VP product development and product application, Lanxess, and Patrick Stapleton VP of sales and marketing - China, GST-Autoleather, gave three very interesting and different presentations on what a global umbrella campaign could focus on. Tegtmeyer spoke of the need through science to promote leather as a sustainable material. There is a need for it to be seen in the minds of the end-user as a truly green and reusable material including all the waste and byproduct materials.
Patrick Stapleton highlighted the results of study comparing automotive seats covered with various types of real leather against synthetic alternatives. A broad range of US consumers were ‘blind’ tested and thankfully the results showed that leather was the clear winner. But leather can’t be complacent. Redwood, in his overview presentation, highlighted cases where leather was being dropped in favour of other materials. He highlighted the case of the latest high-performance Bentley sports car which has had the leather and wood interior removed to be replaced by a synthetic material to save weight. Redwood also stated that there is now no use for leather that cannot be substituted by other non-leather materials. The industry has to maintain leather as a material perceived as higher-value and quality in the eyes of the consumer and steer clear of it becoming just another commodity material.
Following the official press launch in Shanghai the big question is what next for the campaign? It has been proposed that a steering committee be formed made up from companies and associations from around the world to focus on fundraising and deciding where any funds should be allocated and on what.
Anyone wishing to know more about how to become part of the Leather Naturally! campaign can visit the website or email mricker@leathermag.com and I will pass on your comments and suggestions to the relevant people.

The Leather Naturally! event in Shanghai

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