Dr Mike Redwood

Learning for life

Redwood Comment
Published:  21 October, 2020

The changing nature of work has pushed university education to the forefront in recent years as a prerequisite for survival during a life where few of the jobs available at the start of a career will exist towards the end. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

The effective use of external advisers

Redwood Comment
Published:  13 October, 2020

The prestigious journal of the UK Society of Leather Technologists and Chemists (JSLTC) has unexpectedly become a battlefield over the value of consultants. This is a weird battle for an austere technical journal in its 104th year, but one that points to the changing role of technology and innovation within our industry.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Making a start with the Higg Index

Redwood Comment
Published:  07 October, 2020

The leather industry is rightly furious with claims being made on behalf of alternate materials, most of which are made from fossil fuels. These materials would be labelled plastics, rather than synthetics, if they were built into any structural form rather than a sheet material.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Perhaps even put a tie on

Redwood Comment
Published:  29 September, 2020

Reporting on the European situation recently, Robert Perkins, Chair of the British Footwear Association (BFA), said that most countries are now forecasting a decline in footwear sales of 20-30% for 2020 versus 2019. This is better than the forecast decline of 30-40% four months ago. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

ESG hits the spotlight

Redwood Comment
Published:  23 September, 2020

How long will it take before Boohoo and Rio Tinto recover from the outcomes of hitting global headlines for what can only be classed as management failures? Company analysts are talking in terms of three years at least. During this time, their share price will be depressed, many investors will stay clear of the company and stakeholders and customers will be wary before transacting with them.

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Credit: Zbynek Burival

(Un)intended environmental consequences of the vegan agenda

Worldwide
Published:  22 September, 2020

Veganism is often presented as the solution to our environmental, health and animal welfare problems. But is it? Although, the majority of vegans believe any material that is not derived from animals is fine, many miss the fact that globally thousands of perfectly useable hides and skins (for making leather) are currently thrown away on a daily basis (estimates suggest 15-25%), while many of the alternatives that are marketed as ‘vegan’ use up natural resources and many are fossil-fuel derived from non-renewable carbon sources. 

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Credit: Rupixen

New trade models for a new world order

Worldwide
Published:  17 September, 2020

In the ILM Tanner Business Confidence Survey 2019, just 28% of tanners who responded stated that their company is set up to sell leather via e-commerce channels against an overwhelming 71% majority who were not. A year later, in the 2020 edition of the same annual survey, that number had barely edged up, with just 31% of tanners selling leather through online channels, while still a staggering 69% are not.

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Dr Mike Redwood

The chemistry of leather

Redwood Comment
Published:  15 September, 2020

The recent talks about the chemistry of leather by Dr Dietrich Tegtmeyer (which are easily found on YouTube) excellently update us in simple terms about how chemistry works and fits appropriately with the manufacture of leather. It shows that this is a complex subject, but a necessary one, and in the right hands can be a force for good in providing society with long lasting, sustainable materials like leather.

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Dr Mike Redwood

A material world

Redwood Comment
Published:  09 September, 2020

All the evidence that we are seeing is of a world that is fighting hard to pretend that we have never had this pandemic and do not need to change. The press continues to write about the need for a greener world, a less consumptive world and to talk about a kinder society, but the signs on the ground are hard to spot.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Governments do not understand supply chains

Redwood Comment
Published:  02 September, 2020

An industry colleague said to me the other day that there was “not much understanding of supply chains”. He thought government procurement of personal protective equipment during the early period of the pandemic had been astonishingly incompetent as country after country wasted millions, even billions, of dollars failing to obtain the correct supplies of personal protective equipment for medical staff and others facing the virus. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Your future is in the ether

Redwood Comment
Published:  26 August, 2020

If you read these articles, and especially if you have been doing so since they began seven years ago, you have been finding them online. Some prefer to print them out first, but increasingly, they are being read directly on computer screens, tablets or phones. Equipment, software and user skills are all advancing, and the internet is getting more intertwined into our lives and work every day.

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Credit: Karsten Würth

Tanners should seek a renewable carbon path

ILM Comment
Published:  21 August, 2020

It is sad to be constantly reading and writing about the landfilling of precious hides and skins all around the world. This “new normal”, to use a post-Covid-19 world phrase, for the tanning industry had actually started happening well before the pandemic struck. But now it has accelerated as demand for all materials including leather, falls and countries dip in and out of national or regional lockdowns

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Dr Mike Redwood

Rebounding

Redwood Comment
Published:  20 August, 2020

Conversations regarding the ongoing, and apparently never-ending pandemic, are dominated by the desire to “return to normal”. Like nearly all the terms in common use related to leather no one sees any need whatsoever to define what “normal” might mean. Definitions are a matter of what fits the moment.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Shifting Generations

Redwood Comment
Published:  12 August, 2020

The shift in generations as Boomers age has been tough for the leather industry. The post-Boomer generations are more urban, more skewed globally towards eastern markets and more impacted by bombardment with non-leather promotions.

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Dr Mike Redwood

The future smells good

Redwood Comment
Published:  05 August, 2020

During a recent ILM webinar on the impact of COVID-19, which is well worth watching, while discussing the need to have more direct communications with consumers, designers and the press, Luca Boltri from UNIC emphasised that leather had many great stories based on its history, tradition and natural origins that needed telling. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

The weakest link soon breaks

Redwood Comment
Published:  28 July, 2020

Supply chains in the leather industry are complicated. While we start with the location of the consumer to offer a fast and responsive service, even a casual glance shows this is far from a simple matter.  

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Dr Mike Redwood

Robust innovation and dominant design

Redwood Comment
Published:  22 July, 2020

British Airways marked the end of an era when the company recently announced it was permanently retiring all its Boeing 747s, which first flew under its former BOAC livery in April 1971. Although as a student I had previously crossed the Atlantic in its predecessor, the 707, my career over the last fifty years has involved huge use of these Jumbo Jets.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Siberia sends a warning

Redwood Comment
Published:  15 July, 2020

Whatever your personal view about the science of climate change, there is no doubt that everyday weather is now impacting our lives in many ways. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Bright and dressy: consumers post Covid-19

Redwood Comment
Published:  07 July, 2020

Retail is being transformed, offices are evolving, cities are getting younger, people have started saving more and governments have started to persuade them to spend again. In many such ways we are manoeuvring our way towards a new normal – if there ever was any such thing as normal anyway.

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Picture: The Climate Reality Project

We cannot control the media, but we can control the message

Worldwide
Published:  06 July, 2020

Despite what are arguably more pressing problems that the world is facing right now due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, the attacks on leather and the wider industry are not letting up, with certain lobby and interest groups continuing their slander of our sector, processes and products.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Social media in the news

Redwood Comment
Published:  01 July, 2020

In the last decade, companies have slowly come to realise that a communications strategy does not work if it does not include a significant weighting towards social media. They have also very reluctantly accepted that it is not free, but that to make serious inroads money needs to be spent, and if an agency is being used to do it, a lot of training is required before they can reply meaningfully and promptly to enquiries. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

The language of leather

Redwood Comment
Published:  24 June, 2020

A few weeks ago I was intrigued to see an unexpected response to an item I wrote here from Gustavo Gonzalez-Quijano, the longstanding Secretary-General of Cotance.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Leather on the high street

Redwood Comment
Published:  17 June, 2020

The Covid-19 era is leaving retail exposed. It is clear that consumers still want to visit physical stores, but the role stores play in the cycle of purchasing has been changing for some time. Now what we call the ‘High Street’ has been transformed by the three months of closure, consumer confinement and fear.

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Dr Mike Redwood

I had a dream

Redwood Comment
Published:  10 June, 2020

I had a dream; a dream that Clarks had announced the creation of 1000 jobs as they fought back against the ravages being done to the global economy and society by this wicked pandemic. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

No greater achievement than a few well publicised prosecutions

Redwood Comment
Published:  03 June, 2020

The Italian Leather federation (UNIC) announced late last week that after a long battle, it had been successful in persuading the Italian Government to adopt a legal definition for leather that will stop the term “leather” being used for anything not of animal origin.

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Picture: Jez Timms

The “death spiral” for meat in diets

Redwood Comment
Published:  27 May, 2020

What has happened to the meat industry? Is it so confident that the developing world will continue to turn to meat as the middle classes grow that it does not care about its image or reputation? Is it wise to brush off challenges related to climate change, land use, deforestation, animal welfare and dietary health as impertinent irrelevances which will never stop this steadily progressing juggernaut of an industry from carrying on as normal?

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Picture: Campaign Creators

Clever companies always remain on the radar

Worldwide
Published:  21 May, 2020

There has been a lot of talk lately about the role of the ‘influencer’ and how ‘influencer marketing’ is going to change, become obsolete even, as consumers’ priorities are shifting in the wake of the pandemic and they are seeking more authentic, ‘real’ role models and more relatable aspirations. 

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The consumer must recognise the value

Redwood Comment
Published:  20 May, 2020

The relation the leather industry has with the consumer has become far more complex in recent times. That complexity has come from the power of brands and the tools they use to communicate with consumers to make the consumer not bother to understand the material but acknowledge only the logo. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Do you work too hard?

Redwood Comment
Published:  13 May, 2020

If there is one thing that unites tanners in every part of the world, it is an emotional delight in making leather, in being part of the leather industry. The joy of tanning is to handle the leather, to smell the leather and to see its beauty appear as it is transformed from caterpillar to butterfly through the processing. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Tanners must dominate the reopening dialogue, not be led by it

Redwood Comment
Published:  06 May, 2020

The exceptional, and controversial, use of an Executive Order to reopen meatpackers in the US that had been shut because of outbreaks of Coronavirus brings with it a requirement for us all to understand more about the resilience and integrity of our supply chain. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Moment of discovery

Redwood Comment
Published:  29 April, 2020

This is the moment when companies really discover whether they have true marketers or only communications staff in their team, as now it is the fundamental tools of marketing that are needed. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Where are we going

Redwood Comment
Published:  22 April, 2020

As we look out, there is a growing determination to get the world back to work in order to minimise the already huge social, economic and psychological damage being done. The decisions do not appear to be only based on saving lives, as other factors such as the economy, winning elections and taking tighter political control are being assessed by our world leaders.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Single use plastics become an unsung hero

Redwood Comment
Published:  16 April, 2020

We need to be careful about the balance of our antagonism to the marketing of competitive materials. 

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Picture: Deichmann

Brands will be judged on their conduct during coronavirus crisis

Worldwide
Published:  14 April, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has hit businesses of all sizes and guises hard, all around the world. But it seems not everyone is responding to the crisis in the same way, with some conducting themselves more ethically than others. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

A staffing opportunity

Redwood Comment
Published:  08 April, 2020

If you agree that 85% of jobs that we will be doing in 2030 have not been invented yet, education and in-work training is going to have to change. We have lost huge numbers of occupations over the last few decades, and in many areas the jobs lost from the west, that are often the subject of complaint or nostalgia, have already changed so much, they will never come back.

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Credit: Luke Insoll

The joy of suede

ILM Comment
Published:  03 April, 2020

In one of his ILM blogs posted on this website in January 2019, Mike Redwood referred to an interesting comment posed at a Leather Naturally panel meeting during the Portland Materials Show which took pace in the Autumn of 2018. John Graebin, Director of Materials for Deckers Outdoor Corp, asked the audience to consider how leather would be viewed if it was discovered today for the first time. A renewable, sustainable, durable, versatile yet beautiful material; in fact, the very best example of what a modern material in its class should be. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Leather is made to last

Redwood Comment
Published:  01 April, 2020

Over the last few decades, the leather industry has become caught up and dragged along in the world of modern retail and fast fashion. We have steadily suffered from it as prices have been dragged down to meet supposed consumer expectations. Even the so-called luxury sector has pushed hard for share of retail with glitzy marketing and stores in every major airport and city on the globe and has kept margins very tight, with most of the tanners used in supply. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without

Redwood Comment
Published:  25 March, 2020

As the world is impacted by a virus whose origins and spread has been a consequence of globalisation, it is individual countries which have been acting to date, and responding one by one to the situation it finds itself in. While the factories of much of China return to work and the shops there reopen, Europe and the USA are shutting both as I write.

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Credit: Philipp Lublasser

The big unknown

Worldwide
Published:  24 March, 2020

As the world is battling a pandemic of unparalleled scale, global leaders are increasingly resorting to wartime analogies to describe the current situation. We are indeed at war. And the fact that the enemy is an invisible virus, makes it all the more difficult and harder to “fight”, to stay within the terminology. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Globalisation in the 21st century

Redwood Comment
Published:  18 March, 2020

The islands in the South Atlantic were remote and hard to reach. Our three weeks walking and watching wildlife there had been deliberately chosen a year ago; a place where we would be free of everyday news and the unrelenting pressures of the internet. The global state of affairs before and after our trip could hardly have been more stark in contrast.

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Picture: Burberry

There are no winners in a race to the bottom

Worldwide
Published:  12 March, 2020

When Marco Gobetti, CEO of British luxury brand Burberry, announced his turnaround strategy for the ailing fashion house around two and a half years ago, he put expansion into leather goods and handbags - an area where the brand has struggled to compete - at the top of his agenda.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Leather becomes the material of the future

Redwood Comment
Published:  11 March, 2020

I have just ended a rather tough week. For four days I was away studying plastics, and then I went to see the recently released film Dark Waters. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

A noted absence

Redwood Comment
Published:  04 March, 2020

One of the most curious aspects of the last decade has been the absence of the leather industry from social media, while most of our customers in key areas like sports, automotive and luxury have become global leaders in using it to advantage. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Living with the competition

Redwood Comment
Published:  25 February, 2020

A little over two years ago at the International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC4) in Chile, one of the most influential attendees was quoted saying “in the space of a single generation, human activity has severely damaged the ocean by catching fish faster than they can reproduce while also destroying their nurseries.”  

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Dr Mike Redwood

Sustainability demands integrity and completeness

Redwood Comment
Published:  19 February, 2020

It is barely daylight as I write this, not yet 6am. It is Sunday and this is the Southern Hemisphere. Our position is about 53 degrees South and only 1,200 km from the Antarctic Peninsula across what is called Drake Passage. It has felt like a wild night as the wind has howled around our primitive accommodation in an old container – adapted into what was once commonly called a Portacabin.

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Isabella Griffiths

Food for thought

First published in the January/February 2020 edition of ILM
Published:  18 February, 2020

By the time you are reading this, Veganuary 2020, the campaign to encourage consumers to switch to a plant-based diet during the month of January, will have almost come to an end, and if the media hype is to be believed, with a record uptake (around 350,000 people are said to have signed up to the initiative in the UK at the start of January). We will have to wait for the final stats to get a clearer picture of the ultimate response, not just in the UK, but globally, as the official campaign was also launched in Germany, the U.S. and Chile for the first time.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Rev Bob Higham

Redwood Comment
Published:  11 February, 2020

Eighteen months ago, we were having dinner with Bob Higham and his wife Diana in their house in Berwick, on the border of Scotland and England. Recently having entered his eighties, he was still actively interested in the leather industry, and busy continuing to plan more cross-country walks to support charities such as the Nepal Leprosy Trust, where he had been a Trustee in the 80s and 90s, and the Berwickshire Christian Youth Trust.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Heaping the pressure on the leather industry

Redwood Comment
Published:  05 February, 2020

If ever there was a time to find ways to do things differently, and remotely, now is that time.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Things tanners need to do to make great leather

Redwood Comment
Published:  29 January, 2020

 1.   Make it properly and don’t cut corners with cheap chemicals and badly maintained machinery. Hides and skins may be renewable - up to a point - but they are a costly, valuable resource. 

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Picture credit: Toimetaja Tolkeburoo

The hypocrisy of the self-appointed (celebrity) eco-warriors

Worldwide
Published:  27 January, 2020

In the same week that Autocar published an article propagating the rise of vegan leathers in the car industry, attentions turned to the sporting world, too, with fellow British newspaper The Telegraph publishing a piece titled “If sport is really going vegan, is it time to get rid of leather cricket balls?”

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