Education matters

Redwood comment
Published:  23 September, 2021
Credit: Tamara Bellis

Natascha says this is an industry with “a well-documented history of unsustainable practices including intensive and excessive production, textile waste, lack of transparency and poor labour conditions”. As tanners, our concern is mostly about the material choices designers make, but fashion students will be expected to cover so much more, and it is hard to do so without taking shortcuts or making assumptions. Education is vital and we must play our part.

The leather industry has contacts with fashion schools at many levels and these are increasing quite quickly with new interventions via competitions, recruitment, talks and other activities. These are to be greatly encouraged and our various associations need to reach out to the countries and regions where leather is ignored or not in any way linked to our industry. Emerging nations are typical opportunities, and often visiting talks and provision of leather samples to work with can make a big impact.

I now find myself confronted by a 10-year-old grandson and a six-year-old granddaughter telling me they will not eat meat; the former on “ethical” grounds and the latter because of David Attenborough. I have colleagues who tell of teenage children quietly reminding them that “keeping cows is bad for the planet”. 

Given that the UK by and large is an entirely grass-fed livestock country with high levels of regenerative agriculture involved, helping solve rather than cause the climate change and biodiversity problems, this is a problematic state of affairs. 

So, it is clear that we need to educate a much wider section of the public. There have been many short publications and cartoons produced by associations and tanneries and many more are needed. I am particularly excited by the carefully produced work of Leather Naturally on leather education under the topics:

  • Why use leather?
  • Properties of leather
  • Benefits of leather
  • What is leather made of and where does it come from?

They provide excellent, accurate material for all levels about leather and can be used widely from schools to museums as well as brands and retailers. Tanners who open their doors to the community, or have visiting politicians and business leaders, should prepare them as handouts. 

Education is vital, and now is our moment of need. Leather has a story which is central to the issues of climate change and biodiversity, but it needs to be told. The material is available to aid us and every one of us needs to make active use of it.

Mike Redwood

September 21, 2021

Follow Dr Mike Redwood on Twitter: @michaelredwood

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