Leather is made to last

Redwood Comment
Published:  01 April, 2020
Dr Mike Redwood

Over the last few decades, the leather industry has become caught up and dragged along in the world of modern retail and fast fashion. We have steadily suffered from it as prices have been dragged down to meet supposed consumer expectations. Even the so-called luxury sector has pushed hard for share of retail with glitzy marketing and stores in every major airport and city on the globe and has kept margins very tight, with most of the tanners used in supply. 

There is a chance that when things restart after we get this dreadful disease under control, that society will force more slow fashion thinking and pull brands and retailers away from this onward rush towards wasteful purchasing, often driven by little more than a desire for an Instagram picture.

This highly pressured consumerisation that has so changed the way consumers view quality, product care, expectation of use and end of life clearly needs to change at some stage soon, and it is equally apparent that it is the wrong place for leather to be sitting. The definition of leather includes “tanned to be imputrescible”. More simply stated, the tanning is generally strong enough so the hide or skin will not be eaten away by bacteria. We are declaring that our leather is made to last.

Design with repair in mind
So it is unfortunate if good customers unwittingly find themselves trapped in a market that is cascading them towards a commodity level and they choose to cheapen materials, hooks and fastenings to hit price points. So often we have seen when a customer moves from a full aniline to a pigmented leather to save costs on a handbag they have also gone for cheaper threads, zips and other accessories, reducing the life of the bag and making it harder to repair. We need to realise that in the 21st century, that is the wrong direction, and that articles of leather are better designed for repair and longevity.

Hermès had a YouTube video a year or two ago titled “Luxury is that which can be repaired”, and the exciting thing is that most leather items can be repaired and many others that are difficult, could be made easier to repair with only a little thought at the design stage.

So, while we cannot hope to change the world all in one go, it would make very good sense, and good marketing for all our leathers, to constantly remind customers and designers that we make our leather with longevity at no extra cost, and it would support every concept of sustainability if they kept that in mind when producing and selling products made from it.

Design with repair in mind, and helping establish and maintain facilities for that repair would be even better. Given proper margins, tanneries should be able to help with this too.

Mike Redwood
April 1, 2020

mike@internationalleathermaker.com

Follow Dr Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

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