We are continuously told that the non-mainstream raw materials for leather only constitute 1% of the total leather produced in the world and should be ignored. Mainstream material includes bovine, sheep, goat and pig. Buffalo is occasionally added into the bovine figures. This leaves all the rest which includes such areas as:
These are not areas to be ignored. Increasingly we will need them to add volume, quality and character to our leather industry. It has been apparent for some time that land and other environmental issues will slow the growth of our basic supplies.I personally do not believe the one per cent figure but whatever it is it is set to grow and it asks a lot of questions of the industry that many have been trying to avoid.
New technologies will needed to advance our processing skills in new materials. We already have some excellent tanneries working on each of these raw types and we can find some world class reptile material via Hermes and Ostrich from South Africa. Also the skills applied on possum skins in New Zealand have created a world class fur, damaged only by a poor brand image for the raw material.
And this is the key point. Good marketing is going to be needed, and it cannot just be defensive. These materials cannot neatly fall into the hidey hole that tanners use that leather is a by-product of meat and dairy businesses, and a sustainable one at that. Possum from New Zealand is quite a valid raw material but it not a by-product of anything other than man’s historical carelessness – and we would really like to terminate them in New Zealand if we could. So sustainable possum skins – no thanks. The tanners will have to come out above the parapet and promote proper codes of animal welfare (not animal rights), correct protection of the species and the environment and actual stand proudly behind leather as a versatile quality material for a wide variety of end uses. Not too much to ask, is it?