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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Dr Mike Redwood

Leather fits the modern world while many current standards fail

Redwood Comment
Published:  08 May, 2019

For something like the last twenty-five years, huge numbers of the world’s citizens – we talk of them as consumers – have lived in an economic environment of low interest rates. Their governments have kept interest rates low to encourage consumers to borrow and then to spend, because in economies that have moved strongly towards services, consumer spending is important.

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Isabella Griffiths

Fashion industry needs to stop vilifying leather

Comment
Published:  03 May, 2019

Having recently joined the ILM team and the leather industry from the fashion and retail sector, where I was Editor of a leading b2b magazine, I have been eager to learn about the leather trade, including the challenges it faces and opportunities ahead. It’s quite apparent that there are many parallels between the key issues in both sectors. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Disruption in the leather industry

Redwood Comment
Published:  01 May, 2019

Was the leather industry disrupted when chrome tanning began to spread in the early twentieth century? Was it disrupted when the footwear, garment and glove business started to grow in Korea and Taiwan in the 1960s, or in China in the 1990s?  Was it a disruption when sole leather was replaced by rubber and plastic, or the sneaker moved beyond being a tennis shoe into everyday wear? Or how about when we stopped riding horses and started going in buses and automobiles.

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Dr Mike Redwood

The consequences of urbanisation are with us

Redwood Comment
Published:  24 April, 2019

Urbanisation has now been widely recognised by all in business and politics as a longstanding major trend and is often used in a general way to pretend an awareness of the realities of the world we live in. Like globalisation and sustainability, it is loosely defined and open to manipulation in ways more sinister than merely to offer respectability for doubtful arguments.  

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Dr Mike Redwood

Time to give our fullest backing to our administrators

Redwood Comment
Published:  17 April, 2019

I learned recently that the leather industry sorted out its definition of leather back in 1978 at an International Council of Tanners meeting in Buenos Aires. It now exists, more or less unchanged, as EN15987:2015 and is to be found in the International Council of Tanners Glossary (ICT), in much the same form as the old UK BS standard I have often discussed.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Water is not the issue it is made out to be

Redwood Comment
Published:  10 April, 2019

“Regardless of how much steak you eat, the world is not going to run out of water”. This quote comes from Dr. Judith Thornton, the Low Carbon Manager (BEACON) at Aberystwyth University. Previously, she researched water footprinting and water efficiency at Leeds University and has held many significant positions in the Environmental sector in Europe. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

The leather network is invaded by alien materials

Redwood Comment
Published:  03 April, 2019

Networking is mostly considered as something to be done with a wineglass in hand and a clutch of name cards. It is viewed as about job hunting through building relationships with senior people in the sectors where they want to work.

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Image credit: Samuel Scrimsh

Banning exotic leather in fashion hurts snakes and crocodiles in the long run

Worldwide
Published:  28 March, 2019

Co-written by Daniel Natusch a practicing Research Scientist and Conservation Biologist; Grahame Webb, Chair of the IUCN-SSC Crocodile Specialist Group, and a member of the IUCN Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group and Rick Shine, Ecologist and Conservation Biologist and a Professor in Biology at Macquarie University. The article was first published on the website, The Conversation, with permission to republish on the ILM website.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Time to change the game, and the language

Redwood Comment
Published:  27 March, 2019

If there is ever a time to change the narrative about leather it is now. Throughout the 20th century, leather was something that tanners produced and sales staff sold.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Cooperation in the ascendancy

Redwood Comment
Published:  20 March, 2019

After years of watching growing collaboration and convergence around the world, I have returned from the Asia Pacific Leather Fair (APLF) with a new word on top of mind: conflict. It was raised first by Ralph Goodstone, the Vice Chair of the Ethical Fashion Forum, at the Sustainable Fashion Conference APLF Workshop which hid itself away in a far corner of Hall 3F.

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Dr Michael Redwood

A Leather Industry Icon

Redwood Comment
Published:  12 March, 2019

This feels like one of the most important Hong Kong Asia Pacific Leather Fairs we have ever had, which is a profound comment given the significance of APLF in guiding the leather industry towards China in the late 20th century. But, with some raw material being valued at less than US$0.30 per piece and others as “worthless” according to a recent webinar podcast, leather is challenged today like never before. It will be a hectic and worrisome week.

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Dr Mike Redwood

The state of mind regarding the state of trade

Redwood Comment
Published:  05 March, 2019

After Lineapelle there were mixed views about the state of trade. While everyone thought things were poor there were those who viewed the downturn as merely a cyclical matter, while others saw it as a more permanent structural change.

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Dr Mike Redwood

The Circular Economy means using longer, and longer

Redwood Comment
Published:  26 February, 2019

When many people talk about the Circular Economy they think only of end of life. Then how an article can be broken into technical and organic elements to be fully re-utilised, rather than disposed of or recycled into some sub-optimal use.

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Dr Mike Redwood

What is leather?

Redwood Comment
Published:  20 February, 2019

An industry regulator in the EU awarded a buyer of a used Mercedes sizeable compensation for buying a car advertised as upholstered in leather, when in fact it was largely a PU coated textile of some sort. There were a couple of disappointing elements involved.

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Dr Mike Redwood

The legacy of Robert Sykes

Redwood Comment
Published:  13 February, 2019

It is twenty-seven years since the late Dr Robert Sykes retired. He died last October at the age of 89 and was remembered on February 11 at a luncheon in London. He started his studies in leather at Leeds University around 1947 and graduated after a PhD in the early 1950s. He went to work in Africa and then returned to the UK and became head of Science at Leathersellers College in London.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Saving leather from the vegan agenda

Redwood Comment
Published:  06 February, 2019

Although it is only a couple of weeks on, we need to consider the dietary attacks against livestock once more. In the UK, the vegan community promoted a vegan January and have quickly evolved this into a push for a dairy-free February. This includes a campaign element where they have published on line a list of dairy farms where they want people to go and demonstrate against keeping animals, and to try and photograph animals being mismanaged.

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Dr Mike Redwood

The technological core of the leather industry

Redwood Comment
Published:  30 January, 2019

How about a treasure hunt?  What we are looking for is the technological and engineering core of the leather industry. Where can we find it? It used to be in the hands of tanners and their colleagues. Schultz working in New York with Booths on chromium, Turney Wood scurrying around with dog faeces in his tannery in Nottingham, England looking for pancreatic enzymes.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Who is going to defend meat?

Redwood Comment
Published:  23 January, 2019

This is the week of Davos when the great and the good attend the World Economic Forum to resolve the world’s problems in the luxurious Swiss setting. There are a few to sort out.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Leather - from overcapacity to oversupply

Redwood Comment
Published:  15 January, 2019

Fifty years ago, there were too many tanneries. Overcapacity was the major underlying problem of the leather industry, and it was a major reason why tanneries had low margins. The situation got worse as new tanneries were built in emerging areas, faster than old ones closed in the developed world.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Plastic fantastic goes from hero to zero

Redwood Comment
Published:  09 January, 2019

When Leather Naturally first argued that we needed to promote leather and fight off the pretender materials with their misrepresentation we were told that leather was too unique to be involved. Every hide and skin available was available and used and “marketing” would only upset the delicate pricing structure in an a curious “closed” market.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Leather and the experience economy

Redwood Comment
Published:  02 January, 2019

Buying and selling companies for billions of dollars has become commonplace, often creating massive concentration and oligopoly in markets. When LVMH spends over US$3 billion for a train and hotel business, first established with the visionary purchase of a loss-making hotel and a couple of old train carriages, even the leather industry needs to look up.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Let’s start kicking butt

Redwood Comment
Published:  19 December, 2018

We are in the last days of a momentous year. For the first time, the industry has openly acknowledged that selling leather was difficult. It is no longer a given that every hide and skin collected will be made into leather.… and it will sell. 

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Romeu Couros

Leather and innovation

Redwood Comment
Published:  13 December, 2018

By accident today I ended up in a theoretical discussion on innovation. A hundred years ago tanneries used to trademark their strong selling leathers, and twenty or thirty years ago, the top tanners supported their most innovative products with heavy branding and promotion. “Heavy” in leather industry terms, anyway.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Leather is a complex brand

Redwood Comment
Published:  05 December, 2018

I spent most of the day yesterday working with an Executive MBA Class on brand authenticity and repositioning. To be in the course, the students combine academic requirements with considerable business experience. They are mostly quite senior people, so everything gets critically evaluated.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Science must be to the fore

Redwood Comment
Published:  28 November, 2018

It is argued that the high status of scientific opinion in society began to disintegrate with the failure of nylon shirts to offer the benefits promised to consumers in terms of comfort and convenience; and creating the hydrogen bomb did not particularly endear scientists to the world either.

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Martin Ricker

Why now is the perfect time to source sustainable leather

ILM Comment
Published:  22 November, 2018

On November 15, I gave a short presentation at the Leather & Sustainability in Retail conference in central London to highlight why I believe that now is a good time to source sustainable, well-made leather. Over 90 delegates were present with the majority representing brands and retailers. ILM co-organised the half-day event with BLC | Eurofins and here is a summary.

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Joseph Turney Wood died in November 1924

The place for research

Redwood Comment
Published:  21 November, 2018

“Research work is the sole true source of industrial progress.” This quote comes from a valedictory panegyry (I think this is the 1920s way of saying Remembrance Service) by the grandly titled Grande Uff. Ettore Andreis given by him twice in 1925, once in Turin and again in Paris where it was before the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers. It was published as a booklet, and in The Leather Trades Review.

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European tanners visit China 25 years ago

Change while we were sleeping

Redwood Comment
Published:  14 November, 2018

A look around the world of leather these days, be it at a trade fair, a convention or seminar, is enough to see that while we have been busy worrying about generational changes among consumers, there has been a similar change going on in the leather industry itself.

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Dr Mike Redwood

What is happening with leather garments?

Redwood Comment
Published:  07 November, 2018

Every year the catwalk shows feature leather in some way or another. This year for men, the rich and famous are switching from shearling to a more formal trench coat design mostly using brightly finished leathers with quite a high polish. These coats start at around US$4,000, slide upwards to US$15,000 and are, consequently, not intended to hit high volumes.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Little (leather) things matter

Redwood Comment
Published:  31 October, 2018

I was given a reusable water bottle last week by a UK tanner. It is unusual in my life these days to get a gift from a company, and this one is particularly useful. Many years ago, gifts of this sort were nearly always small leather goods - wallets, diaries, leather covered clothes brushes, shoe polishing cases and the like.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Free trade and democracy are diminishing targets

Redwood Comment
Published:  24 October, 2018

For as long as anyone can remember the U.S. and the EU tanning industry has been pushing for free trade on a global basis. The belief was that, at the end of the day, free trade pulled everyone up. At the same time, it was felt that as emerging markets traded more and became richer they would be pushed towards western style democracy by their better educated citizens.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Corporate Social Responsibility and Leather

Redwood Comment
Published:  17 October, 2018

I find great satisfaction in the simplicity of Carroll’s pyramid of Corporate Social Responsibility. It is simple and easy to understand. It is not a rule, but like so many good business management tools it is a framework that serves as a guide to help both understand and uncover what is going on.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Every worker is entitled to a safe workplace

Redwood Comment
Published:  10 October, 2018

If you have a moment you should check out https://oiraproject.eu/en/oira-tools and search for leather and tannery. OiRA stands for Online Interactive Risk Assessment and is a tool to guide the tanner through worker risks in the tannery. Luc Triangle, the head of the IndustriALL trade union organisation that partnered with Cotance (Confederation of National Associations of Tanners and Dressers of the European Community) on this EU funded project over the past five years, concluded the final conference on completion simply summing up by saying that “every worker is entitled to go to a safe workplace every day”.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Noisy about leather

Redwood Comment
Published:  03 October, 2018

Everyone has heard the story of the boiling frog where it sits in a pan of water without recognising that it was slowly getting warmer and stays complacent until the water is too hot, and it is too late. I often wonder about the leather industry at the start of the 20th century when technological changes such as the use of electricity, the internal combustion engine and the arrival of chrome tanning were all happening at once.

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Martin Ricker

Lineapelle observations

Editorial Comment
Published:  02 October, 2018

In the raw materials part of the leather supply chain last week, all the discussions which took place in Milan were downbeat and all hide suppliers who expressed an opinion expect raw materials prices to go lower in the coming weeks and months, with the exception of some demanded selections which are heavier or top grades.

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Dr Mike Redwood

A world that never learns

Redwood Comment
Published:  26 September, 2018

Anyone who observes modern politics know how little we seem to learn from history. Be it economics, warfare, taxation or trade we have developed an approach to life that excels in repeating our mistakes. The problem in the modern communicative, globalised world is that these errors have much greater impact, much faster than ever before. Just think about the 2008 financial crash.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Innovation is more than a fancy new product

Redwood Comment
Published:  19 September, 2018

It was good to see the famous leather name of Colomer being bought by Chanel a few days ago, even though I am not quite clear from all the announcements what has actually been purchased.

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Redwood Comment

Service Economy breathes life into products

Redwood Comment
Published:  12 September, 2018

I have today bought a new outdoor jacket capable of allowing me to withstand the rain and cold that comes with the UK hills and mountains. For the first time, I was looking for a Páramo brand item to do the job. I have watched Páramo for a while as it is totally PFC (perfluorinated compounds) free and highly ethical.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Getting the name right

Redwood Comment
Published:  05 September, 2018

At the recent All China Leather Exhibition (ACLE) in Shanghai a speaker at the Shanghai Shake-Up Conference argued that the time had come for the leather industry to wake up to reality and to work alongside some of the new competitive materials, while not being too precious about the term “leather”.

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