In their November 1922 Newsletter, the Textile Exchange how they would in future define leather. This is the definition the leather industry has been using throughout the 20th century and on, but has failed to enforce. Italy recently passed a new law supporting this approach and Brazil did so as far back as the 1960s with other European countries like Germany and France also having tight rules, but enforcement has been very patchy and to no global effect so that weird adjectives have been attached to leather like “synthetic” or even “genuine” and more recently a more disingenuous term vegan, which has led to others like “grape” or “cactus” or even “fruit”.
In recognising the fact that these terms are misleading, often deliberately so, I am sure the whole leather industry thanks Textile Exchange, whose large membership involves many top brands, for this really significant move. It should be heavily promoted by everyone tanning or selling leather. Thanks also to the tanning organisations who have engaged with Textile Exchange and many other bodies to help increase the understanding or leather and to gain more ideas on how we ourselves can improve. This is the full statement
At Textile Exchange, we define leather according to the following criteria, aligning with the EU directive 94/11/EC, ISO 15115, and EN 15987:2015.
- A hide or skin with its original fibrous structure more or less intact and tanned so it does not rot
- Either with or without hair or wool attached
- Inclusive of hides or skin split into layers or segmented either before or after tanning
- With any surface coating or surface layer no thicker than 0.15 mm.
- The term “recycled leather” should only be used if the fiber structure remains intact during the recycling process. Leather disintegrated into fibrous particles, small pieces or powders and combined or not with chemical binding agents, and made into sheets, with a minimum amount of 50% in weight of dry leather fibers should be referred to as “recycled leather fiber.”
Materials that do not meet the definition above will not be described by Textile Exchange as leather, regardless of any past designation or common usage of the term. There is currently a gap in the legal framing of the classification and naming of the diverse materials sold as alternative materials to leather. This leads to misleading labeling where a fossil-based synthetic material could be referred to in the same way as an innovative plant-based material, making it difficult for a consumer to differentiate the two. We’re encouraging policymakers to close this gap. For now, these diverse manmade materials, fully or partially plant-based will be grouped in the ‘Manmade non-fiber materials’ category of our reports and programs, until further legal guidance on the naming and categorization of these materials is available.