The danger of bad science in good hands

It was only a week ago that we were listening to Dr Heinz-Peter Germann give a very clear and straight forward Procter Memorial Lecture about the current technical status of tanning from an environmental stance at the SLTC conference in the UK. His talk was entitled ‘The Ecological Tannage – Challenges and Progress’

He looked at vegetable tanning, chrome tanning, chamois tanning, and synthetic tanning giving an objective overview which ended with the comment that “chrome tanning with best technique can be classed as environmentally competitive”.

I gave a short talk myself, somewhat last minute as the BLC were originally on the agenda to speak, in which I pitched for the UK leather industry to grasp the opportunity of the IULTCS Commission on communication and liaison in order that the IULTCS can be a powerful voice in this area. I was really pleased by a number of comments which I received after from some of the industry participants present.

The new commission is to be called the IUL (for Liaison, as the “C” for communication is already taken). The commission is intended to have the following roles:

  • Establishing and maintaining a network of global contacts within the leather industry that have A) a legitimate interest in, and B) an authoritative platform to express opinions on issues affecting the industry
  • Establishing and maintaining external media contacts for events or issues that may require an industry response.
  • Pro-actively establishing and
  • Maintaining agreed “positions” on possible issues that may arise within or relating to the leather industry.
  • Providing liaison services with the international leather media on activities and events that occur within the IULTCS.

It is intended that Marc Folachier set up and chair the new commission.

Evidence in the field

Michael Loew sits between myself and Ronald Lagazo from the PhilippinesThe need for this arose in a seminar I ran on Friday last in Hong Kong which was very well attended by top international brands – including Puma, Target, H&M, sourcing companies and press. The Seminar had the title “lifecycle, recycle and upcycle” and one of our speakers was Mr Michael Loew of the Eco-Textile news, an excellent magazine set up by John Mowbray in the UK.

After a really good wide ranging talk which was much appreciated Michael then turned to some carefully prepared words about leather. It was a long determined piece: “Chromium VI is the most persistent toxin used by the leather industry. It is a known carcinogen with the following documented health affects – skin rashes, upset stomachs and cancers, respiratory problems, weakened immune systems, kidney and liver damage, alteration of genetic material, lung cancer and death.” There was a lot more. In the audience was Mr Sadiq from the CLRI and he and I were able to put some balance into the day although Mr Loew did say afterwards that he had much more material on this and he would need further convincing.

Our audience had given up an entire morning for this seminar and were serious people. Another similar group is meeting for a trade show and seminar in London this week under the RITE banner, where John Mowbray is on the steering committee, and where participants will include Marks and Spencer, Tesco and Timberland. Can we as an industry really permit incorrect facts about leather technology to be spread around like this distorting the whole industry? Let us make this IULTCS commission work.

Judging at Fashion Access

Yvonne (centre) judging the APLF AwardsFashion Access is a tiny show by comparison with APLF but interesting none the less and well attended by the brands, especially those who have high level staff based in South China or Hong Kong. Yvonne Watson, who heads up Fashion at the University, was on of the judges for their awards, keeping up the tradition set up by Mark Wilkinson and Jeffry Guthrie-Strachan (and myself, as I got them involved in the first place).

Judging was great success and anyone walking the show noted that the best items did all seem to get nominated and no one argued with the judging. There were some really nice hand crafted bags from the Philippines and gloves from Japan.

Yvonne had gone to Hong Kong to prepare the ground for the centenary next year when the Club event will have the added attraction of a small fashion show to display. As the 2009 centenary comes closer seems to get more exciting by the day, and without question the Hong Kong Fair in 2009 is going to be a good place to meet friends and colleagues from around the world.

Mike Redwood

5th October 2008