Representing and defending the interests of the leather industry worldwide, the Leather Naturally pro-genuine leather campaign has expressed its disappointment with the terminology being used by Nike in labelling the product ‘leather’ as well as its unsubstantiated environmental claims.

“Reconstituted materials of various types have been produced and used in the footwear industry for many years and usually work well alongside leather, but it is wrong to call these products leather, it is also wrong to make the sort of generalised non-factual environmental claims that Nike is making”, says Leather Naturally in a statement.

It is an established fact that to carry the name ‘leather’, a material must be made of the hide and skin of an animal. However, Nike’s material combines leather scraps, most likely wet-blue shavings, and polyester blend fibres, leading Leather Naturally to question how Nike is going to market the shoe range in countries such as Brazil, where the use of the ‘leather’ terminology is stringently protected by law through its Lei do Couro. Furthermore, how far can Nike promote synthetic fibres as being environmentally friendly since it most likely implies the use of petrochemical substances?

Nike claims its new product ‘looks and feels’ like premium leather. “Nike Flyleather completely mimics athletic, pigmented full-grain leathers in everything from fit to touch,” says Tony Bignell, VP of Footwear Innovation, Nike. If advances in the technology used to provide gains in sustainability and the ability in innovating with new products are to be praised, the product name chosen by Nike, ‘Flyleather’, is misleading to consumers.

Citing quotes from Nike’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Hannah Jones, who says the product “uses 90% less water and has an 80% lower carbon footprint than traditional leather manufacturing”, Leather Naturally says that it is “hard to see the logic of this given that it requires a tannery that has made wet-blue to provide them with the shavings. Without the tannery, and its full processing procedure, Nike would have no product.”

“The essence of sustainability today should be built on transparency. Nike’s promotion of a new material making major claims will not resonate with consumers or with other industry stakeholders unless they answer more of the many questions which their claims give rise to. And stop calling it leather, when it is not”, concludes Leather Naturally.

To read the full response about Nike’s Flyleather material from Leather Naturally click here.