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I wonder how many people who read these articles will have heard about Marshall McLuhan, who wrote The Gutenberg Galaxy in 1962. I have to admit that I had not until I was marking exam papers at the University of Bath recently.
McLuhan was the first person to give a meaningful definition to the term ‘global village”. He was doing so to demonstrate how the printing press, and with it, the growth of media had started to change the world from one of many towns and villages towards a “global village’. Later, others started to talk of the “global village” in terms of a shrinking world of consumption habits, where uniform products would be sold to all consumers all round the world.
The examples that were laid out to prove this point were the big American companies such as Coca-Cola, Levi, Marlboro and McDonalds. We still talk about the shrinking works today and, certainly, leather is a product that is not culturally sensitive so it is, generally, the same wherever it is made or sold around the world. Food is quite different, and both Coke and McDonalds make adaptions in different parts of the world. McDonalds has a recognised skill in doing so and has, consequently, helped create the new term "glocalisation".
In truth, with the exception of technical products like iPhones, the "global village" concept is one we need to start discounting. The assumption that we will all like and buy the same things assumes that we are rational, and anyone dealing face-to-face with customers these days knows that is just not true. Also, as we get richer it appears we actually want to celebrate our national cultures; in fact, it is only culture that separates us.
So, while leather may not change from one continent or country to another, the products that leather goes into, and how consumers use them, do.
Prosperity creates a desire and an opportunity for designers and consumers to experiment and, as tanners, we should celebrate this fact. It is one of the main aspects that helps stop leather becoming a commodity.
31st May 2016
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