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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Dr Mike Redwood

How good is our competition?

Redwood Comment
Published:  22 January, 2020

Are we a lazy industry? I sometimes wonder. Twice in the last two weeks I have been asked about comparative test data to compare leather with synthetics, and as far as I know, as an industry we have no peer reviewed papers which we can use as an industry to fight our case.  

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Dr Mike Redwood

Thinking about raw material

Redwood Comment
Published:  15 January, 2020

When thinking about raw material these days, we tend to focus on two issues – animal welfare and traceability. These have arisen to create auditable routes which fit into a “tick-box” approach and certainly have their relevance. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Getting the industry to 2050

Redwood Comment
Published:  08 January, 2020

We are now entering the third decade of the new millennium and are in sight of that far-off year of 2050. Only three decades to go. A look back at the last three decades of the leather industry is not reassuring.

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Could 2020 be a better year for the leather industry?

Leather sector has taken a beating, but is not beaten

Worldwide
Published:  23 December, 2019

To say 2019 has been a difficult year for the leather sector is nothing short of an understatement. The industry has been under attack from all fronts and there have been some casualties along the way. Writes ILM Editor, Isabella Griffiths.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Marketing involves identifying your audience

Redwood Comment
Published:  18 December, 2019

I was impressed by the positioning of the Dacia Logan when it first launched in 2004 and enjoyed the fact that in a marketing class of 200 students at the University of Bath, for many years the students had no idea what a Dacia Logan actually was. Meanwhile, it was proving itself spectacularly successful and a perfect example of a product designed to meet a well defined consumer demand. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Changing supply chains in the leather industry

Redwood Comment
Published:  11 December, 2019

China has just instructed all its government organisations not only to buy Chinese software and computers, but to remove foreign ones. It is one of the clearest signs yet that the tariff battles initiated by the U.S. are set to leave a legacy long after any change in administrations in both or either countries. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Tanners need to open minds to wider thinking

Redwood Comment
Published:  04 December, 2019

The move by Heller Leather to link with Bolt Threads, the owner of MYLO, will come as a shock to many passionate tanners who hate the marketing approach of the new materials being presented as replacements for leather. 

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Picture: Leit & Held

Transparent marketing can break down prejudices against leather

Wordwide
Published:  02 December, 2019

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Nina Conrad, the Head of Supply Chain Management at Leit & Held, a young German leather goods label founded by a trio of women with an interdisciplinary background in design, interior architecture and sustainability.

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Dr Mike Redwood

No mystery in UNIDO

Redwood Comment
Published:  27 November, 2019

The best things in life are free, so we are told; although it is hard to imagine how this applies to the leather industry. For me, it took the unexpected serendipity of a trip to Ethiopia, for it was there I was able to spend an hour with Ivan Král who runs the leather side of UNIDO from his office high in the UNIDO building in Vienna.  

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Dr Mike Redwood

Sometimes we need a bout of realism

Redwood Comment
Published:  20 November, 2019

It is easy to complain about the film Erin Brockovich creating the public sentiment against chromium, and to be angry with PETA and other vegan and animal rights groups for their propaganda against anything to do with animals. The FAO were clearly to blame for a gross error in releasing the 2006 report Livestock’s Long Shadow and providing supposedly authoritative data to be used against animal products. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

The subject of manufactures

Redwood Comment
Published:  13 November, 2019

Alexander Hamilton, the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, produced his Report To Congress On The Subject Of Manufactures in 1791. A lot of politics was involved, and he ended his life being fatally injured duelling with swords. Many of his views fit (or are made to fit) with the recent more isolationist thinking that has stalled what appeared to be relentless progress towards globalisation and western style democracy. 

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Picture: EcoDomo

Is brands’ recycling effort no more than lip service?

Worldwide
Published:  11 November, 2019

For a while now fashion retailers such as Marks & Spencer in the UK, Swedish fashion giant H&M, Spanish headquartered chain Zara or U.S. brands such as North Face or Eileen Fisher, to name just a few, have been offering take-back programmes of used clothing. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Changing Consumer Habits

Redwood Comment
Published:  06 November, 2019

Increasingly, brands have started to accept and even work with the second-hand market. The jump from loud consumer complaints about Burberry burning old stock to offering some of those who sell second-hand items via their US partner The RealReal and a personal shopping session and tea is indicative of a big change of heart. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Bangladesh’s sharp decline

Redwood Comment
Published:  30 October, 2019

It is worth having a brief look at Bangladesh. With over ten years of steadily rising costs in China and now a trade war ongoing between China and the U.S., Bangladesh should be reaping the benefit with a world leading leather industry. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Open the tannery doors

Redwood Comment
Published:  23 October, 2019

Not many from the leather industry attended the first edition of the Sustainable Fashion Conference on March 14, 2019 during the APLF Show in Hong Kong. It was held upstairs, in the expansive area to which the whole show will move next year, allowing everyone more space to move about in. 

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Credit: Artificial Photography

What the leather sector can learn from the fashion industry

Worldwide
Published:  22 October, 2019

Before I joined ILM earlier this year, I spent 13 years as Editor of a leading b2b magazine for the fashion retail industry in the UK, arguably one of the most prestigious apparel markets and most dynamic retail sectors in the world. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Leather making is difficult, but we have to remain aware

Redwood Comment
Published:  16 October, 2019

Leather making is difficult. What we are doing is “conditioning” a natural material to stabilise the structure against bacteria and adjust it to perfectly serve its required end use.

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Dr Mike Redwood

On the right track

Redwood Comment
Published:  08 October, 2019

There is no doubt that a new impetus has been needed in the leather industry that must be built around the two fundamentals of marketing and innovation. What is more, neither can be quiet, incremental and merely involve more of the same as in the past.  

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Dr Mike Redwood

The Leather Business should contribute to society

Redwood Comment
Published:  02 October, 2019

Liverpool needs little introduction with its top football team returning to prominence in the last few seasons. It has many other reasons to be famous from the Beatles to waterside buildings exactly like the Shanghai Bund, which serve to remind us what an important global shipping centre it has been for centuries.

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Picture credit: Vincent Delegge

Fighting fake news and lazy reporting about the leather industry

Comment
Published:  27 September, 2019

Lately, and all too frequently, it has become commonplace for mainstream as well as social media reports to lay into the leather industry, elements of its supply chain and processes, or the wider meat sector as a whole. Leather is under attack, and leather makers and finished goods producers are increasingly on the backfoot, having to constantly defend themselves and their industry from mistruths and negative, anti-leather propaganda. 

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Picture credit: Stefan Widua

Fewer People better for leather

Redwood Comment
Published:  25 September, 2019

In 2013 two significant books were published about the growth in world population with 10 Billion prominent in the title. One was by Danny Dorling, a geography Professor, and the other by Stephen Emmott, another celebrated scientist who advises governments and in 2013 was Head of Computational Science at Microsoft Research. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Leathermaking with pride

Redwood Comment
Published:  18 September, 2019

Modern geopolitics has become a major influence on the leather industry in a way that is unusual outside of war, albeit, it was the slower application of geopolitical trends that pushed leather making out of the more advanced economies and into the emerging markets. 

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Credit: Sam Carter

Animal welfare must be at the heart of the leather narrative

Comment
Published:  16 September, 2019

Concerns around animal welfare as well as ethical considerations are the driving motif behind the vegan movement amid a wider environmental agenda and pursuit of a greener lifestyle.

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Credit: Eccofinishing

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in the hide market

Raw Materials Report
Published:  11 September, 2019

An overview of the raw materials market trends following the ACLE in Shanghai, September 3-5 and the outlook over the coming weeks as the industry prepares for Lineapelle in Milan and the next buying season. Overview written by a Market Analyst at theSauerReport.com

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Dr Mike Redwood

A week in Shanghai

Redwood Comment
Published:  11 September, 2019

What is the takeaway from a week in Shanghai? In simple terms, it is make relevant leathers and tell a good story. Be sure you have an honest sustainability story, that your processing is responsible, that your management of all wastes is comprehensive and honest and you treat your workforce fairly. If you miss these points, you are not at the party. Others will beat you, and some of those others will not be leather. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

All change in the world

Redwood Comment
Published:  03 September, 2019

It is a wet Monday and we are drinking tea in a hotel lobby in Shanghai to keep warm. Typical really as we stole the (rather dishonest) tea producing process out of China so we could do it in India and now the U.S. is putting tariffs everywhere to stop China stealing intellectual property. The tea heist back in 1848 was carried out by Scotsman, Robert Fortune, dressed as a Mandarin. Today’s activities are apparently full frontal but in everything today the black arts of cybercrime and straightforward political double speak play a big role.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Parkour negotiates rough terrain

Redwood Comment
Published:  28 August, 2019

Whatever definition of marketing you use, and the leather industry has a poor record at definitions, it was not leather industry marketing that caused the global financial crash in 2007 nor pushed hide prices over US$100 a hide a couple of years ago. On the other hand, it was a clear industry failure to grasp even the fundamentals of marketing that has meant there has been so much surprise that leather has not seen a rebound in market share since hide prices started collapsing.

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Mike Redwood

New Product Development is back with a vengeance

Redwood comment
Published:  21 August, 2019

“And finally this century is nearly two decades old, and if you look around the innovation that our customers are seeing has come more from the alternatives than it has from leather.” 

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Agha Saiddain

The honest truth about leather

Guest comment
Published:  19 August, 2019

Agha Saiddain, Marketing Director of Pakistan based tanners, Royal Leather Industries located in Lahore and the current Chairman of the Pakistan Tanners’ Association (PTA) Central section, has presented his thoughts to ILM around some of the untruths and misconceptions around leather and leather products in the current market. He urges the tanning industry to work together to fight on common ground. 

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Agony and Ecstasy in the Leather Cauldron

Redwood Comment
Published:  14 August, 2019

The idea of mapping out positioning in the marketplace using Perceptual Maps started about forty years ago and is a useful tool to help visualise what is occurring. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

The juicy fifth quarter

Redwood Comment
Published:  07 August, 2019

I was upset last week when I was directed to an item on the Dezeen website where the head of Helsinki Fashion Week was talking provocatively about farming leather. I promptly responded in the abyss of the “comments” section which never gets read. I suppose it relieves the upset at seeing more malevolent abuse of facts. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Managing the word "leather"

Redwood Comment
Published:  31 July, 2019

Last week we saw a welcome but rather unexpected move by the China Leather Industry Association (CLIA) to stop the confusing marketing that arises from the historic usage of the meaningless term “synthetic leather”. It is something that has infuriated the industry as they travel around the globe to leather shows where leather sits alongside other materials to help buyers who want to make their international visits more efficient.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Chrome tanning in the emergency room

Redwood Comment
Published:  23 July, 2019

A year or two ago I wrote here that some of the most senior leather buyers from major corporations were convinced that chrome tanned leather, despite being technically superior and environmentally quite satisfactory, would not survive the next few years. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Leather in Society

Redwood Comment
Published:  17 July, 2019

New York began as a trading post to send hides and skins back to Europe. Soon leather was needed to supply the needs of arriving settlers, so the direction of the leather trade started to reverse and leather production became a major US industry. 

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Credit: Juliana Amorim

Leather and the Amazon, again!

Redwood Comment
Published:  10 July, 2019

In the Autumn of 2018 National Geographic magazine took a look at the prospects for the Amazon forest amid the political upheaval in Brazil. It did look good.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Moving leather forward

Redwood Comment
Published:  03 July, 2019

The fact that hides and skins are not reaching the tannery but are being discarded to landfill is a failure in the leather industry. All through the 20th century we said that the volume of leather is totally dependent upon the size of the kill created for meat and dairy purposes as no economics could ever permit keeping livestock for leather.  

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Isabella Griffiths

Vegan ‘leather’ might be en vogue, but can it satisfy the mass-market?

Comment
Published:  02 July, 2019

Consumer interest in all things vegan and eco-friendly is growing. Whether you consider it a fad or the Zeitgeist of our time, it certainly looks like it is a trend that is here to stay. I do not need to tell you that the leather industry has been hugely affected, if not damaged, by this development – mostly, it seems, because of its own passivity and inability to (re)act and to defend its place in the market.  

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Dr Mike Redwood

Time to start speaking out

Redwood Comment
Published:  26 June, 2019

The European Sports Show ISPO recently produced a well written article about the German footwear leather tannery Josef Heinen Leather. As the Leather Naturally campaign is about to kick off, it is important that we remember that every organisation, tannery and individual has to keep on playing their part. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Technology and location; lessons from Gideon Lee

Redwood Comment
Published:  19 June, 2019

Gideon Lee was one of the most famous people in New York; Mayor between 1933-34, and with a big house at 37 Frankfort Street - the same street where Schultz and Kuttner later plotted the concept of chrome tanning over lunch in Racky’s restaurant. Born in Massachusetts he moved to New York to become a leather merchant and, after some success, in 1817 he started a joint stock company in the U.S. to tan leather. The New York Tannery was built in the Catskills and was the first covered tannery to be built in the U.S..

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Dr Mike Redwood

Up and down the leather chain

Redwood Comment
Published:  12 June, 2019

As tanneries steadily upgraded their wet ends last century, introducing larger drums with mechanical handling of hides and controlled additions of chemicals and water, along with modernised set ups for fleshing and splitting, the labour content dropped considerably. I first recognised this when given charge of a brand-new tannery in El Salvador in the 1970s, and looking at the costings we recognised how the labour element changed as you moved through the tannery.

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Dr Mike Redwood

A new voice for Livestock

Redwood Comment
Published:  05 June, 2019

I am very much looking forward to hearing Frank Mitloehner speak at the 4th World Leather Congress in New York this July. He was one of the first to challenge the FAO Livestock’s Long Shadow Report, which still haunts the livestock and leather industry despite being written back in 2006 and full of very obvious errors. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

We live and work in networks

Redwood Comment
Published:  29 May, 2019

If you listen to my wife, we would still be living in El Salvador, despite the fact that we worked there over forty years ago. At that time I was managing the tannery for the shoe company ADOC. We left because the beginnings of the long civil war were starting to make life both difficult and dangerous for all the family, as curfews, bombs and kidnappings made their impact on everyday life. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Turmoil

Redwood Comment
Published:  21 May, 2019

Being in the UK right now is difficult. It is not so much that the nation does not seem able to manage leaving Europe, which after all is little more than the complexity of a very divided country, but rather the comprehensive lack of vision coming from any quarter regarding the future role of Britain in the world.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Getting old, but staying young

Redwood Comment
Published:  15 May, 2019

Demographic changes impact business networks in different and complex ways, and the leather industry has never been immune. It is acutely affected by geopolitical and macro-economic developments. 

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