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When we began Leather Naturally! we produced a diagram to show how there were two leather industries. One was where the features and benefits of a natural material with exceptional natural properties created an increasingly valuable material.
The other was where tanners have decided to produce a commodity. The speedy upward rise of raw material prices has accentuated this and not for the better. For tanners trapped in the bottom left corner making low grade leather these have been difficult times: leather does not sell itself. Leather needs to offer value for money and celebrate, not hide, its natural characteristics.
So while makers of automobiles and upmarket leather goods fret about supply of the premium leathers they specify at the other end of the scale too much leather struggles to compete with fast improving alternatives.
Regularly we are told that new heavy finishes have greatly aided the use of so-called lower end material and that thick PU coatings have helped the split industry. A retrospective look at this suggests this to be wrong. Instead these approaches merely established a target market for competitors to chase after and confused consumers about the true worth of leather. Even products such as E-leather with its clever use of tannery "wastes" no longer look so clever as they also disturb the market with supposedly leather properties that do not really meet the mark over the months and years of wear that leather users have come to expect.
At last now some tanners have decided to rethink their approach and to celebrate the underlying material properties rather than to hide them. It is indeed time for leather to come out from under its chemical mask and honestly present its fabulous properties for the consumer to enjoy. Remember it is not always about instant gratification for all that modern society tries to make us think so. Hides and skins are not built for a throwaway society. The true value of leather lies not just on day one, in month one or year one but in a material that keeps giving year after year getting better all the time. Making leather from all grades that celebrate the performance and natural elegance, characteristics sensitively included.
Then all leather moves into the premium sector and the competition will be competing in an entirely separate segment. Sounds easy but requires commitment and dedication.
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