On 13th February 2020, Leather UK held its Annual General Meeting at Leather Trade House in Northampton.
Over two dozen delegates attended and it was marvellous to see so many of our members there. The following notes are a summary of the key topics discussed.
We need to engage with students and young people to ensure that they receive the facts about leather.
Leather UK is involved in a number of activities to promote the facts about leather. With specific reference to leather, Leather UK is coordinating the UK edition of the international leather design competition organised by the Leather & Hide Council of America (LHCA). This is intended to encourage the next generation of designers to embrace leather, and includes a presentation about leather to the students (this has been delivered by Leather UK). We are also closely linked to the Institute for Creative Leather Technology at the University of Northampton and developing deeper links with the School of Fashion.
Leather UK has also launched the Leather UK Directory which will become a ‘one-stop shop’ not only for leather and leather manufacturing sourcing but also training and information. To supplement this, Leather UK will be producing a series of information leaflets, addressing the key concerns about using leather that are being raised by our members and their customers. We are also working with Ruth Glenn and UKFT to establish the Centre for Artisan Accessory and Leather Makers (CAALM) in East London, which will provide space for training and manufacture and potentially, a forum for discussion and education around leather.
Getting the message out is difficult
Leather UK has a growing social media presence and is very active in responding to misrepresentations of leather in the press. However, our reach is limited and as such, there is a need for our members to share our outputs with their contacts and customers. This will extend our reach considerably.
Ruth Glenn gave an outline of the CAALM project, in Bromley Hall, an old school in East London (Poplar and Lower Lea Valley).
The premises have been secured (over 10k sq. ft). Part SME production space, part training facility, this centre will provide a hub for the emerging fashion cluster in East London. It will position British making, once again, as the rising star in our economy, ensuring current makers are trained to the highest standard and bringing forward the next generation of British makers.
How are small companies dealing with the anti-leather arguments?
It was noted that traders are receiving lots of enquiries for ‘vegan leather’, particularly from students, who do not know what they want but are adamant they do not want animal skin. There is evidence that performance characteristics of synthetics vs. leather are dissimilar and that leather performs better. If this was available, it would be a useful argument for using leather (Question over whether or not this information is in the public domain). It was also commented that students at the London College of Fashion were required to produce a sustainability report for their final collections and as a result, increasing numbers were using leather.
There is a need for synergy between the various leather organisations, Leather Naturally, LWG, Leather UK, etc.
The industry has been slow to react to the claims made against it but we now have a number of organisations advocating for leather. These organisations are increasingly working together - Leather UK and Leather Naturally have reciprocal memberships – and are pushing a common message. But more needs to be done
The term leather needs to be protected
Leather as a descriptor is being appropriated by a range of different substitute materials, none of which meet that accepted definition of leather. Leather UK has been part of the European Association’s efforts to push the EC to protect the term, leather. However, there has been considerable resistance to this and there seems little chance of that situation improving. However, both Portugal and Hungary are evaluating the need for national legislation on the use of the term, leather. If a member state develops its on legislation, the EC may be forced to introduce European-wide legislation, in order to prevent fragmentation of the EU internal market.
The board of Leather UK are seeking insight from the associate and affiliate members.
While the articles of association for Leather UK allow for tanner members only to be directors, the board had decided to investigate a number of non-executive director posts. Nominations for those positions were invited.