Speaking at the Leather Naturally networking event during the ACLE, Fernando Bellese from JBS Couros and a member of the steering committee at Leather Naturally unveiled the next steps that the campaign is looking to take. “The project aims to reconnect the values of responsibly-made genuine leather to the up-and-coming target audience, Gen Z and millennials”, he explained.

Leather Naturally aims to firstly target industry influencers that may use leather in fashion, automotive and interior design, art and music. To do this, the campaign aims to build a dedicated work team that focusses specifically on reaching out to “the influencers” as well as product designers and consumers in the target groups.

Millennials (or Gen-Y) are loosely defined as being born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s and Gen-Z are those born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s. They are a key focus for the leather supply chain as they are heavily influenced by the negative or misleading reports or comments made on social media or via online groups and communities. This group, although having a limited spending power now, will represent an estimated 45% of the global market by 2025 according to a report by Bain & Co and will have a strong spending power in the future.  

Fernando Bellese said that Leather Naturally had initially selected 23 major cities as targets located throughout Europe, Latin and North America and South East Asia, with a focus on fashion, interiors and vehicles. A comprehensive blend of social media platforms will be used at the target audience as well as a presence at some of the major fashion events taking place in locations such as Milan, Paris, London, Tokyo, São Paulo, New Delhi and New York and other events such as design and interior shows, music festivals and automotive events.

Leather Naturally has been growing its membership base and during the ACLE, it attracted several new stakeholders who pay an annual subscription of US$2,000. However, to meet the ambitious marketing campaign set out during the meeting in Shanghai a number of the stakeholders are understood to be committing extra funds.

Where are the tanners?

During the Tannery 2030 conference held in Shanghai on August 28, Egbert Dikkers, Chairperson of the steering committee, which is made up volunteer industry stakeholders, further outlined the objectives of the campaign and urged more companies to join. There is a feeling that the industry is under attack from some anti-meat and leather NGOs and campaign groups who are looking associate the industry via negative perceptions about animal welfare as well as a poor reputation when it comes to the environment and working conditions.

Speaking during the same event, Thomas Schneider, Executive Chairman, of global tanners ISA TanTec said that there were not enough tanners joining the Leather Naturally initiative. “We should put aside our own business interests and work together collectively to face the negative coverage. Currently, only around 20 tanners have joined Leather Naturally, and we need to see a lot more,” he said. 

Leather Naturally aims to compliment the work being conducted by existing national, regional and international industry associations with a focus on regaining the positive reputation and perceptions about products made with leather.

The 2018 edition of the ACLE included a dedicated space for visitors to learn more about the inherent qualities of the material as well as attend free seminars and workshops.