Get-togethers returning to fashion

Redwood Comment
Published:  26 April, 2017
Mike Redwood

When the first World Leather Congress was held in Brazil a few years ago, tagged onto the back of a very successful World Footwear Congress, someone told me that they thought the industry had discovered a new appetite for big assemblies. I found it hard to believe. For some years, the numbers attending the UK Society of Leather Technologists and Chemists conferences had been declining, and it began to look like an event for a few enthusiasts to meet with even fewer elderly retirees. 

Yet, it appears to have been a true portent. Aided by a brilliant decision to permanently locate their annual conference in Northampton, the SLTC Conference has steadily grown in both attendance and relevance. This year’s event was outstanding and, judging by the AGM which followed the busy day, the Society itself has been re-invigorated and is brimming with ideas.

The 120th SLTC Annual Conference was significant on multiple levels. Not only was the attendance large and internationally diverse but it included big numbers of women and of young people. These included both current students from the ICLT at the University of Northampton but also younger executives from both tanneries and industry organisations. Some of these were involved in the presentations aiding in moving the entire event further from one dominated by elderly gentlemen, albeit Christine Powley-Williams and the late Amanda Michel had already done the groundwork over previous years.

This says a lot about what is going on in the industry

Part of this is a realisation that we need to put much more effort into recruitment; that there is a greater need for research and for education, including continued personal development. Added to that is the personal network building and benchmarking that comes with staying in contact with other parts of the industry. All these have added to the feeling that participation rather than withdrawal is the correct approach to gatherings like the longstanding SLTC annual conference and dinner. The agenda reflected all this.

To prove this very point it was remarkable to see that Modern Meadow, the start-up developing a biofabricated collagen material with leather like properties, chose this venue for its novel “fire-side” chat update as they prepare the commercialisation of their product. This was not the narrow declining audience with limited links to industry of a few years ago, but one of the widest and brightest such a company can access anywhere in the leather world. It would not be possible to find such a range of senior managers or technicians at a trade show nor at an international IULTCS meeting. As a result, they were able to respond to a wide range of penetrating and well thought out questions. The UK SLTC is also closely linked to overseas associations in Africa and Australia and no doubt the information will get there also: it was certainly being recorded if not live streamed.

The 120th SLTC Conference appeared determined to justify the existence of such meetings in a digital world. It made its point admirably. If you have something to say to the leather industry, say it in Northampton.

Mike Redwood

26th April 2017

mike@internationalleathermaker.com

Follow Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

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Mike Redwood addressing David Williamson, Modern Meadow Chief Technology Officer, during the 120th SLTC conference
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