23 May, 2018 - 25 May, 2018
24 May, 2018 - 25 May, 2018
29 May, 2018 - 31 May, 2018
30 May, 2018 - 01 June, 2018
04 June, 2018 - 08 June, 2018
New York, USA
As I write this, I am floating away from Budapest. We are recreating a trip done by Jason and the Argonauts with the Golden Fleece (a sheepskin used to collect gold from a river bed in northwest Georgia) as he sailed up the Danube to Vienna: a trip up the Danube from the Black Sea done by many others - Huns, Magyars, Ottomans - mostly with all conquering intent, over the last 2000 years.
Two things come across very clearly in all this. While today we battle for the integrity and the soul of leather around the world, it is clear that none of these huge global events, mythical and the vastly more significant real ones, could have taken place in the Balkans, the Carpathians and across the Hungarian Plains without leather. Secondly, it is clear that leather has a rich tradition in these countries with technologies and products which should remain significant today. Decades of soul-less communism, which never recognised the role of craftsmanship, and a current environment where modern young people continue to look to a digital, urban environment for their future and are walking away from their family’s centuries of involvement in the land.
Hungary is typical of many countries with a strong leather history. It has equestrian leathers from a long tradition of horse and carriage riding along with great skills in tanning leathers from the hides of those self-same horses and mules (often using tallow and alum). Beautiful fashion gloves from around the region of Pecs, where you can still find experts in pique stitching, who are getting rarer every year around the world. And it has a tradition in footwear, garments and leather goods.
Yet we know little of this Hungarian industry which deserves to be widely supported and still able to attract young people into good careers. The German footwear and automotive industries have found Hungary a good place to work so there is a truly modern aspect here also. The skills of Hungarian leather making need to be recognised and promoted. The world needs to know and Hungary needs to remember. Its horse riding skills and long-horned grey cattle need to be more than tourist attractions.
As well as spending our time crying foul, we need each and every country shouting loudly about the industry they have. Giving us the stories, the figures and the tales to tell that are positive about our industry. Defending our industry without getting on with promoting what is good is wasted leather.
Countries like Hungary need support in our industry.
Dr Mike Redwood
25th October 2017
Follow Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood
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