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It is early evening and we have just finished a very Romanian supper in “Caru’ cu bere” in the old town in Bucharest. It has been a popular brewery and beer house since the 1840s and is popular with locals as well as tourists. Right now the climate is on the cusp of change from winter to spring. Near freezing at night, indeed we had a little snow, but bright and sunny in the day, with a temperature that depends on the strength of the icy cold wind.
In such weather the traditional, historic clothing to wear is a leather jacket. It offers the perfect balance of fashion with function. It protects from the cold and from wind chill as well as giving decent resistance from precipitation. One of our main objectives in being here was to visit the The Village Museum which shows houses that have been used in the last 250 years throughout the Romanian countryside. A mix of livestock, cereals and timber was the basis of society and it seems skills in leather were deeply engrained in history here. It has been a vital material.
So it is good to see that as five young women get up from a nearby table all five are wearing well fitted black leather jackets. From a look around the streets and on the buses and tramcars it would appear that the leather jacket is alive and well in Romania. There are some good looking shearlings and shearling lined ones but it is the short black jacket that seems preferred by both males and females. The black leather may not be the most fashionable in the world but it does offer a classic look that stays wearable year after year.
Just scan the student discussion pages around Europe to observe the current views on this:
"A good quality leather jacket will last you a really long time."
"I....bought one...... like 4 years ago and it's still in perfect condition. I'd recommend it."
"I made the mistake of buying a very real looking imitation......and it broke within 6 months of wearing, ripped at the elbow."
"A good quality real leather jacket............won't ever go out of fashion; it'll be the one thing in your wardrobe that you'll wear years down the line."
This is pertinent as, although the Romanian economy is growing fast, the average monthly wage remains low (about €400 in 2015 compared to the EU average of €1450) so it is the target of low-end fast-fashion stores selling cheap fakes. "Faux leather" appears to be the word most used. I am sure the girls in Caru' cu bere were wearing leather and got the impression that plastic had not yet heavily penetrated this market.
There is a challenge here to the local tanning industry, which has had a rough time since the collapse of communism, and that is to keep Romanian young people in Romanian leather jackets. The leather need not be the very best, but it has to be fair. Fairly made and fairly offered of lasting quality even if some way off Italian or Spanish fashion colours. It seems to work with leather gloves, so let us reverse the worldwide trend toward cheap throwaway textiles and plastics.
Getting leather garments back for utility plus their looks, rather than fashion alone is a good objective for us all.
22nd March 2016
Last week’s comment
By the way the Observer did not run Leather Naturally's reply (or anyone else's) last weekend. If we do not hear from them in the next week I'm going to ask the Editor to find a way to publish it next week.
Follow Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood
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