The leather industry has a lot to shout about

Redwood Comment
Published:  17 April, 2018
Dr Mike Redwood

Every day we get another message about a material using the name of leather either inappropriately or illegally. Thankfully, many regional and national associations have taken up the challenge of fighting the misuse of nomenclature. In the past, they have often been unwilling to get entangled in such battles but this mentality now appears to have changed.

It is an important issue as often the intention is to persuade the consumer to buy an inferior material thinking it is leather; and more often than not the consumer only discovers the truth when the product fails or it cannot be repaired. Yet, for every consumer who complains about what they have mistakenly bought, there will be ten who do nothing other than end up upset and confused. An unhappy consumer who falsely believes leather is not good value.

So, while at Leather Naturally we believe misleading consumers is very wrong, and needs to be stopped, we also believe we need to get the message out about the true values of leather. We need a much higher percentage of consumers ready to shout out when they are being cheated, or better still to know the questions to ask at the time of purchase. This has become a priority task.

There are a few points that need promoting. For example, very few of the alternates to leather can be called sustainable. Mostly they are plastics derived from fossil fuels. Some textiles, such as non-wovens made from cellulosic materials are from natural sources but these have limited functionality and much inferior durability.

Similarly, most alternates are not biodegradable. We hear from some of our experts of 50 years for leather compared to over 500 years for synthetics. While the precise numbers need more research, the relationship is valid and worsened by our knowledge of how much of the plastic is ending up in the oceans as micro-particles. Although treatments to counter this, such as plastic eating enzymes, are being rushed out it will be impossible to round up all waste plastic for treatment.

On top of all this, leather lasts for a long time; one of the first fundamentals of sustainability. No so-called alternates are as long-lasting as leather. What is more, in nearly all items, leather is rarely the material that wears out, and the articles can usually be repaired. But when the coating gets torn from a PU coated textile, no repair is possible. Billions of plastic shoes and handbags that do not last very long, cannot be repaired, kill our oceans, and take forever to degrade have become a nightmare scenario.

We do need to start shouting, as we have so much to shout about.

Dr Mike Redwood

April 17, 2017

mike@internationalleathermaker.com

Follow Dr Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

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