So, why do I see so few young people in the leather industry? If you ask a young person if they would rather work for Apple or IBM, I would speculate the majority would say Apple. IBM had a 65-year head start on Apple, yet Apple stocks are at record highs and IBM has just posted its 10th quarter of flat or declining sales. Due to constant innovation, Apple is now the symbol for technology and innovation.

Of course, in the U.S, you could point to the steep decline in the domestic tanning industry that’s been going on over the past few decades. However, with rising production costs overseas, due largely to a growing middle class, higher wages and broader environmental regulations, we are beginning to see a greater demand for leather made in North America than anytime experienced over the past few years. As an industry, we need to encourage young people to enter the tanning industry and give them the opportunity to create and develop leathers that will keep us at the forefront of designers’ minds.

Waiting for the designers of large fashion houses and brands to come to us with ideas is not a good strategy and business will continue to fade if we do not innovate and draw them in. With newer and often more economical materials, designers’ minds get flooded with different options. Leather has never had to compete against as many other materials as it is facing now. From hemp to recycled plastic bottles, we are seeing greater development in alternative options for clothing and other products historically made with leather. There is no time like the present to start recruiting the next generation to appreciate and understand that, while there will always be a new synthetic, you can never replace the timeless beauty and strength of real leather. I am one of the lucky Millennials who was able to have the opportunity to learn about leather and the people in the industry. Let’s work together to share this.

Mark Coxon

Thoroughbred Leather – A division of Tasman Industries


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