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Last week I went into a Tesla showroom in a shopping centre in Cambridge with a retired colleague who spent most of his career with Stahl. Both Tesla S and an X models were on show along with a neat wall display of all the interior materials, carefully laid out in a way that you could not see a cut edge. A very sharp young man tried to sell us a car and was doing well until we asked him about the material for the seats. “Synthetic leather” was his reply.
So, he had to endure a short sharp lecture about the term being illegal, the material he was offering being environmentally dreadful as it is based on petrochemicals and a likely catchall in its manufacture of all sorts of dangerous solvents and plasticisers. Leather Naturally had written the script a week or two ago in their release about Tesla; click here to read.
What is a tanner?
What was clear was that this was a bright young man, but he had no idea about the subject at all. As we left he asked us what we did and we both said we were “tanners”. He had no idea what a tanner was. At first, we thought he was joking, but talking to him a little more and asking some others since it is clear that young people have lost all knowledge of anything to do with leather. An industry that was, until last century, one of the most significant in the world in helping drive civilisation and development forward has slipped from the consciousness of today’s youth.
Yet there is another side to this. After a decade of modernising facilities, updating courses and working on outreach to schools and industry, the Institute for Creative Leather Technologies at the University of Northampton has announced a record intake of leather students for the new academic year.
It is clear that when, we as an industry, can talk to young people about leather we can create excitement and enthusiasm.
When we engage wholeheartedly with society about leather, fighting the false claims of animal rights activists, opposing the misleading comments of synthetic competitors, highlighting the value leather brings to society we are making a difference. It is a process that must never end, and obviously worth doing.
The doubters said that marketing leather would only upset the pricing in the industry and do no good. But as the evidence grows of the value of marketing leather generically and I hope they will now come onside; and perhaps deliver an ICLT leaflet to the young man in Tesla.
Dr Mike Redwood
3rd October 2017
Follow Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood
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