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In a long career you will make a lot of mistakes, you are just trying to avoid making too many big ones. Perhaps more important is not to dwell on your decisions too much and let them prey on your mind. So when I was challenged in a seminar in GDS Düsseldorf last week and failed to respond effectively it has aggravated me that I have struggled to move on and get it out of my mind.
The point at issue was getting consumers to buy fewer goods but instead to buy higher quality ones that last longer. The savings in resources and in emissions is very large and obvious so I did not expect another panelist at one of the world’s top footwear fairs to turn round and imply that it was arrogant to tell the consumer to buy less, and they will not do it. Consumers, they said, like spending carelessly and will carry on doing it. They viewed the work by Patagonia to persuade consumers to buy less and keep things longer as cynical at best.
I am more used to being attacked for being one of the marketing tribe that has ruthlessly persuaded society to indulge in unsustainable consumption, buying things they do not need and creating the whole concept of throw-away consumption. Yet as a leather technician I have never made leather for a throw away market. Leather is too good, too costly to be put into articles to be bought for just one or two uses. Buyers of leather articles spend a little more for something that will last a lot longer; it just makes sense.
Looking at how consumption has been changing and the changing world of city homes with less space to keep things we are already seeing purchasing habits change, especially for the young. Consumers prefer experiences to goods and those goods they do buy are much more considered. At the same time, while purchasing that is identifiably linked to greater sustainability has been slow to develop, it is now relentlessly growing, especially among this younger demographic.
So I do not think the wisdom of buying leather for longevity and quality involves manipulating consumer choice, that consumer attitude is already evolving and we are well placed to respond. I remain confused by the arguments that say we are acting arrogantly by placing our leather in the correct space of the market. Leather works well for modern caring consumers.
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