Life after plasticWe have to work harder to help future generations fall in love with leather
by Mike Redwood – spokesman of Leather Naturally
This year can be noted as the year in which the world got a wake up call about the danger of using plastic. Over the years plastic has infiltrated a huge variety of end uses including many formerly using leather. The replacement of the traditional classic leather jacket for winter by synthetic items such as fleeces or PU coated polyester is part of the reason that our rivers and seas are filling with deadly micro plastic pieces. We have had to fight against leather being attacked on quite unscientific grounds while all these fossil fuel based copies kill our planet.
The answer to all the environmental bodies and false experts is to get back to leather. Leather is not just a luxury. It comes in a wide range of grades and price points and works as an everyday material that lasts, and with care can be repaired in most circumstances. While not the cheapest it is never sold to be disposable, or only used a few times before disposal, so becomes cheap in terms of cost to wear in comparison with other materials. Take an airline seat in textile that needs dry cleaning every six months and then re-fireproofing. None of that for leather, which should only require a damp cloth and still outlast the textile by more than double the number of years.
Organic things are good for you
But beyond all that leather is natural. It is built of collagen fibres which lie at the heart of every piece of leather however it is tanned – chromium, vegetable or any other way. All leather is at his heart organic. As the false and petty arguments made about chromium tanning continue remember that point. All leather is organic, and organic things are good for you.
That is why consumers like buying leather items to cover their technical tools and devices. It is why increasingly restaurants and coffee shops are upholstered in good looking leather. Being natural, being organic makes people feel better in a world dominated by steel, aluminium, glass, technology and plastics of every kind. Leather humanises it all. Despite recognising the importance of digital tools like smartphones consumers are getting anxious about technology intruding more and more into our lives.
There has always been a suspicion that wearing synthetic materials like polyester lead to a build up of chemicals in the body, and that these might eventually trigger illnesses like cancer. Hence many customers still prefer natural materials like wool and leather. Even cotton is only a problematic material because of the way we have chosen to produce it, from slave plantations in the United States in the 19th century to the old Soviet regions where there was not enough natural water and they loaded it with fertiliser and chemicals.
Amidst all this the tanner who treats his workforce well and is responsible with all environmental aspects, can feel that the leather being produced is an honest, quality material, whatever the grade or price point; regardless of whether it is destined for a luxury handbag, an automobile seat cover or an everyday winter blouson jacket.
Hides and skins offer a multi sensory experience and leather items made from them certainly create a better life for many consumers, from an everyday feel good factor to becoming treasured “friends” that hold a special place in their minds.
This plays into some wonderful aspects of modern leather. While it is an engineered product that is made with precision to be sure it will fit the specification and be fully capable of carrying out the functionality expected of it, at the same time it is a “crafted” item, with its colour, softness, roundness, smell and touch loaded with artisan craftsmanship.
Some leather products never die
This mixture of science and craft is exceptional. It is part of the reason why the makers of certain hand bags and specialist automobiles can say that their products will never die. They will last a long time in the first instant but over the decades they will be returned for refurbishment or repair.
This is on top of leather being a renewable resource from a bi-product of two important industries – meat and dairy – and part of a livestock industry that provides income to a billion subsistence farmers and which plays a major role in improving biodiversity by maintaining our increasingly rare global stock of long term grassland.
It is definitely time we worked harder to help future generations fall in love with leather.