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Let’s talk about Leather and Sustainability

In the “REPUBBLICA MOTORI” insert of 10th July 2019 I read some statements by Gerry McGovern, “Designer of the Year 2019”, and his right-hand man Massimo Frascella, Design Director in Land Rover. “Personally I would be very happy to stop using leather. I hate the fact that so many animals have to be slaughtered to make our leather“. (McGovern).

“Many years ago, a leather sofa was the ultimate in luxury, now in the best hotels and in our houses you can’t see it anymore, and the same trend is emerging in the automotive sector” (Frascella)

I am a Tuscan tanner and I’m part of a Consortium of 22 artisan companies that produce vegetable tanned leather, an ancient and very high quality production. Our leathers become more beautiful with use and have a very long life. I take this opportunity to express my point of view, as informed person, on this issue.

Leather: a noble artisan tradition which respects the environment

The first consideration is that from such important people I would expect a deeper culture about the material they have been using for a long time, namely the leather. All the cowhides used in the automotive sector don’t come from animal slaughtered for their skin, because raw hides are the discarded by-products of the food industry producing meat for human consumption. So, our tanneries ennoble a waste material making it unique and of high-quality.

The Italian leather industry is one of the spearheads of the global fashion system, with thousands of people involved, and such FAKE news risk discrediting an entire productive sector. But let’s go back to our 22 artisan companies that are custodians of an ancient culture and tradition and that produce in Italy in accordance with the hundreds of regulations of Italy, of the European Union and of all the countries where we export our leathers.

We have never sought easy relocations to take advantages of the labour cost, or to have more permissive environmental regulations. We purify our waste waters according to the law and we do the same with air emissions (in recent years, not all car manufacturers can say the same thing).

Maybe we’re not an interesting topic for “full page” articles, but we’re the real MADE IN ITALY and our products, real example of a circular economy, are appreciated worldwide, especially by those who have a true culture of quality (remember that the words “luxury” and “high quality” can not always be referred to the same product).

Our leather tells about our territory and our creativity and has an higher quality compared to all pseudo-ecological-syntethic materials (petroleum products). So, that’s the new luxury?

In conclusion,what we see today, at all levels and in any field, is the continual birth of new religions that profess extreme positions with arrogance, anger, but above all with superficiality. In this mare magnum the big industries ride the various currents very skilfully without being able, perhaps out of interest,  to tell the truth.

Our lives are a race to consume goods with a very short life cycle, both for the poor quality of the materials and for the continuous offer of new models. We are like in a Pavlovian experiment: a sign lights up and we buy. We have no product and quality culture, far less an environmental culture. We can protest against anyone but only on condition that our consumption bulimia remains unchanged.

Why does nobody says that it is necessary to “buy less and buy better“? We have been repeating it for over 20 years but consumers, perhaps due to induced ignorance, and producers, for their own interests, will hardly admit it.


Simone Remi – President of  The Genuine Italian Vegetable Tanned Leather Consortium

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