An important September

September looks like being an important month for the BSLT. The main event going on is the Shanghai is the All China Leather Exhibition (ACLE) which is the “Biggest and Most Important International Leather Trade Fair in China”. It is certainly important to the school as we are well advanced in developing relationships with three Chinese leather schools in Wenzhou, Xian and Chengdu (where Tony Covington is already a visiting Professor). In addition to this China has been quite an important source of students over the last few years.

Looking forward we actually expect Chinese leather students to be taught locally in China with the final year and any post-graduate work in Northampton. We also expect Northampton to teach the teachers via our M.Sc., Ph.D. and Leather MBA programmes. This September our Vice Chancellor, Ann Tate, will be in Shanghai with Mark Wilkinson. If any alumni reading this will be present do let me know so we can arrange to meet up and if we have a decent group we can all get together for a drink with the VC. We are looking to create a series of useful meetings for the VC so if you are able to help do let us know.

IULTCS Istanbul Initiative arrives in Paris

When Mark returns from China he will at once lead a delegation to the International Leather Forum in Paris. This is an invitation only meeting called by Marc Folachier who is the current President of the IULTCS to “reflect on strategic issues faced by the leather industry and on leather’s future in the marketplace.” This comes out of the IULTCS meeting in Turkey where it was agreed it was necessary to get all stakeholders from ICHSLTA through the educational and research institutes to the suppliers and ultimate brands talking together. A long process has gone on to get invites out to a selected 100 key industry people to invite to this meeting a lot is expected of it. The University and the BSLT will have Geoff Attenburrow as Chair of the IULTCS education committee as well as Tony Covington for his leading edge research. The University wants to play a lead role as a top educational and research institute with strong links to the brands not just via leather but also via fashion, 3D design and other areas of the university such as environmental management and management.

I have always argued that the fragmented nature of the leather industry has weakened it and that too much time has been spent thinking about marketing “leather” rather than providing a proper body who can speak up for the industry against some of PETA’s unfair claims, issues such as REACH and some of the testing procedures for “banned substances” which are not at all scientific. Leather itself is well thought of by the consumers – it is the tanners that have been weak in protecting the industry and letting others like the brands dictate whether we use Indian hides or how to test for CrVI.

The SLTC Conference at Chester

September also brings us the SLTC conference at Chester. It is the 110th this year and the keynote speaker will be our alumnus John Basford who is talking on liming. It has all the makings of one of the best conferences for many years and the bookings are already looking very good.

Michael Redwood

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Leathersellers Prize-giving day

So now we have reached the end of term which always arrives punctuated with a lot of interesting meetings for the non students. Perhaps the students enjoy them too, but the impact of actually having to turn up at exams may take away some of the pleasure.

For the BSLT we have the degree ceremony and also the now traditional prize giving in the Leathersellers Hall in London. This latter had the biggest attendance I can remember in many years with the staff having to bring in extra seats for all the standing visitors that turned up. There was pretty much a full attendance from students and staff plus many of those external colleagues who help on the technical committee (discussing issues with the students during the year and looking at the experimental tannery) and LIAC, the long standing Leather Industry Liaison Committee which meets twice a year to be briefed on, and to a degree advise on, strategic issues. All these along with the press and others filled this fantastic venue, and begin to demonstrate the excitement the invigorated leather school is now creating.

Ken Nokes was the main speaker. He is a Leeds leather graduate and one of the members of the LIAC group I have just mentioned. Ken has had a long career in the tanning industry before the biog decline of the 1980s much of it with companies that become part of the Garnar Booth and then Pittard Garnar set up – such as Russells and Wilson and Tilt. Latterly Ken has been working with SATRA from which he has just retired.

One really fascinating point which Ken raised is that he sees the growth in the leather and footwear industry in China slowing as a result of environmental issues, labour shortages and wage rises. This is perhaps good news for India, Pakistan, Brazil and most of all Africa.

Winners of the BSc Prizes awarded by Leathersellers were:

1st – Tanveerul Amin

2nd – Ankit Sondhi

3rd – Eldon Leo

Winner of the Leathersellers Certificate Award was: Zufair Ahsan

Winner of the Leather International Award was: Chen Guoying Kelvin

The Fashion Show now mainstreams leather

Another major event is the University Fashion Show which has now always got a major leather element. The Vice Chancellor has made it known that the Fashion School wins by having special courses in footwear and leathergoods design as well as utilising a lot of leather in the general clothing and fashion courses. For this we thank all those tanneries who have been so helpful in supplying leather each year. To demonstrate the very close relationship between leather and fashion at Northampton prizes were awarded by Cordwainers, Leathersellers, and Church shoes family foundation. Pittards leather was a sponsor of the event. The new technical team in the tannery, especially Paul Evans played a major role this year in working with the design students on the leather ideas.

New machinery for the tannery

The first of the new machines for the tannery – a new fleshing machine and a sammy setter – have now been bought and should be in place for the start of the new session. Discussions are on going on the rest of the equipment and the layout.

Michael Redwood

Tuesday, 03 July 2007