The half-day “Future trends in a post-Covid leather industry” event took place in the Dubai World Trade Centre and featured 60 attendees and a further 30 viewers attending the pre-recorded online version of the conference.

The conference featured seven presentations from leading industry speakers covering a range of hot topics such as traceability, deforestation, lifecycle analysis, leather versus alternative materials for biobased content and consumer and brand/retail attitudes towards leather as a material.

During the conference, Gustavo Defeo, CEO of Italy based ARS Tinctoria, outlined the fossil versus biobased carbon content of a range of finished leather products (shoes and leather goods) with his presentation Radio-carbon as a measure of quantification of the circularity of materials.

During the presentation, he demonstrated using carbon-14 dating that many of the so-called vegan materials containing fibres from mushroom, cactus, apple, pineapple and so on have very high levels of fossil fuel derived carbon from petrochemicals (in the range of 60-80% content) and only 20-40% of biobased carbon from the natural fibres. This was compared with a typical vachetta style leather produced in Tuscany which contained 96% biobased content and there were many other examples to support leather’s high biobased content compared with fully or part-synthetic materials mixed with plant fibres. 

“By making leather a truly circular and fully biobased carbon product, we could in the future return the leather to the soil as a fertilizer to aid the growth of plants and create a material which is truly carbon positive,” he explained.

The conference was followed by a drinks reception to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Royal Smit & Zoon, the lead sponsor of the conference alongside event sponsors JBS Couros and the Leather & Hide Council of America.