I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the New Year urge to get out of this Covid-caused rut that so many of us have been in and make some positive changes.

It’s been a tough couple of years, there’s no denying that, and it’s quite likely that a lot of companies have kicked the ball down the road in terms of handling problems and advancing strategies that require time, investment and, ideally, in-person meetings. However, we can expect 2022 to be a challenging period for the industry, and indeed the world as a whole, too and there’s no escaping the reality of getting on with life and business.

Problems need to be solved. In Bangladesh, the Savar situation has reached critical point and news about investment in new tannery parks could either be exciting or deeply concerning if the focus isn’t on sorting out the waste treatment solutions at the existing tannery cluster. Greenwashing continues to affect corporate strategies in automotive, fashion and other leather using industries where some large brands are deciding to move away from leather and into synthetic-based materials. As ILM columnist Mike Redwood says in a recent comment, leather needs to regain its hold on the exclusivity of the name and the benefits of the material.

Similarly, leather has plenty of opportunities to take advantage of and these will very quickly pass the industry by if we allow ourselves to be frozen by pandemic woes and economic uncertainty. Sustainability agendas are at the top of everyone’s list and the entire industry must make a step change towards environmentally friendly tanning methods, sustainable production practices and flawless waste management if we want to hoist leather up by its clearest benefits. It must become the material we all know it is and can be on a global scale: recycled, sustainable, adaptable and long-lasting.

In the past couple of magazine issues of ILM in 2021, we spoke with and about companies such as Spoor Leather, Anya Hindmarch, Italprogetti, Stahl and others who are choosing to partner with businesses who put this idea of leather at the front of their mind going forward. By prioritising this vision, not only can the leather industry be a force for good for the environment, but we can also prove to consumers, brands and world governments that this is a material that deserves to be prioritised and protected.

Covid complications

Despite all of this, Covid-19 will continue to be a problem and overcoming these as they come will be the first game any leather business has to play. At every turn, the world has expected the pandemic to die down and things to return to normal, and then we see a spike or, most recently, a new and rapidly spreading variant. The reality is that we may be dealing with Covid for a long time to come, but deal with it we must.

One example of this comes with the APLF show, traditionally held in Hong Kong to focus on Asian leather markets. This year, the show will move for a special edition to Dubai, where events have managed to soldier on for the last 18 months with Covid-19 safety procedures and titanic efforts from event organisers.

In fact, right now we are in the middle of Expo 2020 in Dubai, which began on October 1, 2021, and will run until March 31, 2022. The main site of the event comprises 1,083 acres, located between the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, involving 192 countries and more than eight million visitors by the end of 2021. Needless to say, if this event can get by in Dubai, then the APLF should be a roaring success and a chance for the industry to take a much-needed step forward into a post-Covid world, if such a thing exists.

In his first comment of 2021, Sam Setter said: “It is my wish that 2022 will be partly a repeat of 2021, where in the beginning the industry and people will face problems, which dissipate during the first month creating opportunities after the first quarter and that, with vaccinations reaching the highest possible levels, there will be no fallback like in the fourth quarter of 2021.”

I would echo this sentiment. No doubt 2022 will be challenging but it’s time for us to find ways around Covid and the economic challenges of the last couple of years. Our industry will never be the same, from the way we manufacture leather and leather goods to how we deal with businesses on a national and international level, but in some ways we have never been stronger. Let’s put that strength to use and take leather to new and greater places in 2022.

Tom Hogarth, Deputy Editor