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Mike Redwood compares the state of the world and the state of leather and finds some common ground for the industry to look to as we promote leather in 2022.
Soft, loose-fitting, comfortable yet capable of being mixed with other items including footwear and gloves to move from informal to formal. This is the direction of travel that we will see after this pandemic.
They say that politicians never know when it is time to step aside, and a look around the world today would appear to confirm this. Covid-19 fits this pattern and does not recognise that it is time to leave us alone and let the world progress to its other problems.
But in the minds of most global citizens, the decision has been made and we are seeing an adapted normality developed from the experiences of the past two years. There will be more mask wearing, less flying about and behaviour that is generally more wary and watchful.
It has been a matter of stops and starts as governments have jumped from euphoria to panic. The fashion world has evolved and revolved trying to get to grips with how the future might look and tanners have adjusted rapidly to wildly swinging trends in footwear, automotive, household goods and even luxury where handbags have been amazingly strong throughout.
Neckties and suits
We soon grasped these changes as they arose, but prediction was difficult. Some male tanners have never worn ties while in some areas they always do but, generally, the pandemic has taken neckties off and put suits away. For ladies, high heels have been put away and look likely to return mostly for socialising, parties and some formal events such as weddings (and a reduced number of those will be so formal).
The versatile clothing that can be used for formal or less formal settings by mixing allows consumers to make use of their existing wardrobes, and some will want to find the occasions to get this all out and enjoy it. But skirts and dresses will more often be mixed with scarves, jumpers and mid heels rather than a return to uncomfortable high ones, while mixing jackets and trousers for men and skipping the collared shirt will offer new opportunities for relaxation and individuality.
Colour amid a sea of grey
In some ways, the British Queen Elizabeth II, entering the 70th year of her reign, has shown the way; managing to stand out in her use of colour amid a sea of grey. Often the colour is associated with her location and shows creative thought in making every element – gloves, handbag, coat, hat and footwear – match.
The Queen has been always a user of leather and understands its origins and values. These new trends towards comfort and versatility, with the associated need to hold more classic items, cry out for leather; lots and lots of mostly soft leather.
It needs the leather industry to not wait to follow the trend but to start to take the lead and promote those origins and values. When a versatile classic is needed that will sit in the wardrobe to be regularly used, it should be leather, as should the bright spring or summer item. Leather is the very best material for longevity and easy maintenance, although care should be taken with an easily stained pastel suede.
So let us push leather to the fore and promote it strongly with pride in its beauty, performance and sustainability credentials. We have the skills now to work with designers and makers for it to be fit for purpose, to design for with quality zips and stitching to reduce the need for repair and make it easier if ever required. We can even make pastel suedes that should not stain, and bright colours that will not run and, if they ever do, set up systems to get them refurbished. And every tanner in the world should be buying a leather garment in 2022 to lead the drive. What will yours look like?
Follow Dr Mike Redwood on Twitter: @michaelredwood
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