Nothing Beats Genuine Leather: Just Ask A Trimmer

In Article, Fact7 Minutes

Article

While there’s a wide choice of interior finish options for vehicle owners these days, genuine leather still remains the number one choice.

That’s according to Paul Hewitt, founder of Seat Surgeons in England and one of the country’s leading leather trimmers. In a career spanning over thirty years, Paul has seen many changes in the business – not to mention in people’s tastes. But for feel, durability and aesthetic appeal he says nothing comes close to leather. Which is why he is so proud to be still handcrafting leather interiors today and passing on his very special skills to a new generation.

Since helping out in his father’s bodyshop at the age of 13, Paul always knew this is what he wanted to do. After training as a coach trimmer at college, he went on to trim leather for everything from luxury cars to buses to speed boats. Soon he was running his own businesses in places as diverse as Malaysia and China as well as in the UK.

Leather for commercial vehicles

Today, Seat Surgeons is one of the leading vehicle interior specialists in the UK. Paul has invested heavily in state-of-the-art cutting systems, sewing machinery and embroidery tooling, and is proud that all his raw materials – apart from thread, for some reason – is sourced from the UK. Part of Seat Surgeon’s work focuses on the luxury car market – and Range Rovers in particular. But there is also big demand for high spec leather interiors for commercial vehicles. For instance, they specialise in adding sports seats to VW Transporter vans covered with tailormade leather upholstery. “Our leather interiors make commercial vehicles much nicer to drive,” says Paul, “and leather is so much more durable than synthetic alternatives especially in work situations.”

“I’m seeing car manufacturers going more and more for ‘plastic’,” says Paul, “but, ironically, we’re getting busier than ever doing leather!”

Luxury upgrades

On the luxury side, Paul has worked on prestigious upgrade projects for companies like Overfinch as well as for celebrities including boxer Tyson Fury and footballer Wayne Rooney. According to Paul, Range Rover has improved its own leather a lot in recent years so he sees fewer new models coming into the shop, but the demand from used car owners is booming with people looking to take their interiors to a higher level. “Diamond stitching is a particularly impressive way to add elegance and refinement to a leather refurb,” says Paul, who also lays claim to introducing the technique to the mass market a few years ago. Other customers simply want to upgrade from cloth or plastic seats to the feel of genuine leather.

Leather’s superior performance

Although Seat Surgeons does offer synthetic alternatives, Paul says they are nowhere near as nice as leather. They don’t have the feel, the touch that genuine leather does. “I prefer to work with leather,” he says, “even if it’s a little harder to cut and sew than man-made synthetics. As far as the end product is concerned, nothing beats a really nice grainy leather with a soft touch and nice smell.”

Performance is an issue too. “Fake or PU leather – and fabric – covers do make you sweat,” Paul says. He feels that genuine leather that hasn’t been over-corrected, on the other hand, “does seem to take the heat out of the seat even in full sun”.

Changing trends

Having been in the business for decades, Paul has seen a lot of change in the industry. In the past he would get a lot of trade from car dealers and converters looking to add value to cars before selling them on. It’s a clear sign of the high value that car owners continue to place on a genuine leather interior, and yet this isn’t being reflected in the choices car manufacturers are offering their customers right now. “I’m seeing car manufacturers going more and more for ‘plastic’,” says Paul, “but, ironically, we’re getting busier than ever doing leather!”

Today, thanks to supply chain issues and rising prices, the market for second-hand cars is booming – which is good news for companies like Seat Surgeons. Paul continues, “That’s what’s feeding our business right now. Vehicles are like clothes horses. Entrepreneurs aren’t so much selling the car or van itself but the ‘kit’ inside – that’s what people are looking for.”

Sustainability and ethics

Sustainability is also a hot topic in the car market. Manufacturers are finding ever more outlandish materials which they can position as ‘sustainable’ although, as One 4 Leather has pointed out repeatedly, many of these are plastic-based and a lot more harmful to the environment than natural, biodegradable leather. As for emissions from the tanning process, Paul’s view is that the situation is improving. Having worked extensively in China, he saw first hand how sustainability issues have become more and more important there. He recalls sitting in meetings where Chinese government officials would insist that tanneries meet ever stricter controls on emissions. If it’s happening in China you can be sure it’s happening elsewhere too.

Increasingly, animal welfare is an important issue as well. While in the past, everything was driven solely by price, today Paul pays close attention to the source of his hides. Working with companies such as Pittards and Bridge of Weir, Seat Surgeons can be sure its leather is coming from animals that have been well cared for. Gradually, Paul thinks, customers will come to understand this distinction too and embrace leather even more widely.

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    Tips On Care And Handling Of Leather

    In Article1 Minutes

    Article

    Leather is an amazing material with a whole range of desirable properties. It is versatile and durable, flexible and malleable, strong but breathable, resilient and stylish. But, as a natural material, it does appreciate a little care to keep it in the best possible condition.

    An article by The Leather Council includes a link to some top tips on keeping genuine leather in top condition – and, if necessary, how to mop up spills or even (god forbid!) glue stains.

    What should you do if your leather car seats get wet? That should not be too much of a problem as leather is very forgiving. For ink marks, however, don’t worry but do be quick. When a sticker leaves a spot of adhesive behind, dry-cleaning fluid might be the answer  although simple soap and water is often the best approach. There’s even advice on getting the leather smell back into your car.

    The beauty of car leather is that it ages well – some would say it just gets better and better with age. But there are things you can do if, for instance, the sides of your car seats start creasing from constant use. Generally the best advice is that prevention is better than cure so follow the maintenance advice – such as whether to use a leather protector or not – given by your car manufacturer.

    Read full article here

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      Giorgio Armani’s Fiat 500 Makeover Uses Leather For Interior

      In Article3 Minutes

      Article

      According to GQ Magazine, fashion legend Giorgio Armani helped design a very special Fiat 500 as part of a charity project. Alongside a grey-green, silk-effect metal body, alloy trims and a folding fabric roof, this sexy little number included an interior “as chic as it is sustainable” featuring natural controlled-origin leather, wool fabric and regenerated wood. Proceeds from the sale of the one-off car were earmarked for the Earth Alliance – Leonardo DiCaprio’s climate change-fighting non-profit organisation.

      Leather remains the go-to material not only for style, comfort and practicality but for sustainability too. It offers whole lifetime performance for car seats thanks to its functional properties and durability. Historically, it has always been a preferred material for many reasons including its longevity and endurance: if treated well, genuine leather will remain in pristine condition.

      As a natural material, leather is also both strong and flexible – ideal properties for a car seat. In addition, it is resistant to soiling, staining, scuffing and scratching. Due to its lightfastness, leather will keep its colour and appearance, while its natural ability to resist heat makes the material flame retardant. Day-in, day-out, leather maintains its properties in any car interior.

      It’s also nice to see that an eco-friendly, electric car like the Armani Fiat 500 chooses natural leather to fit in with the sustainability narrative of the design in contrast to faux leather (vinyl) which is made from petroleum-based plastics and less sustainable.

      Interestingly, Armani and his design partners also equipped the fashionable Fiat with anti-pollution and anti-bacterial technology. Leather’s structure and the way it is processed provides natural resistance to bacteria and car buyers are increasingly requesting it as an option for this reason.

      It’s also nice to see that an eco-friendly, electric car like the Armani Fiat 500 chooses natural leather to fit in with the sustainability narrative of the design in contrast to faux leather (vinyl) which is made from petroleum-based plastics and less sustainable. As a fully bio-degradable material with a very long useful life expectancy which is derived as a by-product of the food industry, leather is the perfect green complement to this design tour de force.

      Read the full article here.

      (With thanks to Leather Naturally for the original link)

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        For Leather, Traceability And Sustainability Go Hand In Hand

        In Article, Fact3 Minutes

        Article

        Our friends at Leather Naturally told us about an interesting video, part of a series called ‘Sustainable Talks with N&N’. It features an interview with two companies that are promoting a system that provides complete traceability from cow to finished product.

        Imagine that: being able to trace the leather in your shoe, bag or car seat back to an individual cow and finding out how it was raised, what it was fed on and, basically, if it had had a good life.

        Full leather traceability

        The tracing technology has been developed by SPOOR, an offshoot of the Danish leather supplier, Scan-Hide. When hides come from an abattoir, they include the ear tag the cow was given at birth. Having registered all the information from the tag, the SPOOR system uses laser technology to imprint each hide with a unique number which can then be used to access the full backstory of the animal. According to their website, “Unlike other methods of identification, our laser mark is resistant and stays on the hide throughout the entire tanning and refinement process to the final leather cut. In this way, we can guarantee that our rawhides come with 100% documented traceability all the way back to the farm.”

        Being able to trace the source of leather right back to the farm could be a huge benefit for leather product manufacturers

        Ethically sourced leather

        Being able to trace the source of leather right back to the farm could be a huge benefit for leather product manufacturers – including those in the automotive industry. It enables them to show consumers who might have questions over animal welfare, for example, that their automotive leather has been humanely and ethically sourced. It could be a vital element in telling the real story of sustainable leather. As we have reported before, when it comes to leather for car seats, the issue of traceability is being taken very seriously and various routes are being explored to find viable and reliable ways to deliver it.

        Birgitte Holgaard Langer, Business Development Director at SPOOR, says that their technology is a real game-changer: “Sustainability is not a destination. It’s a new way of collaborating, thinking, a way of finding solutions together through the value chain.”

        SPOOR is an offshoot of Scan-Hide, Denmark’s last remaining tannery, which is run with a co-operative spirit and built on local heritage and unique craftmanship. Based on the island of Funen, it supplies rawhides internationally – each one with a unique story of sustainability to tell.

        Watch the video here

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          5 Ways To Tell If Leather Is Real

          In Article4 Minutes

          Article

          An article co-authored by Mallika Sharma on WikiHow sets out some simple ways how to tell real leather from fake leather in garments. It can be more tricky to tell the difference in automotive leather because it is designed specifically to minimise variance and many automotive companies specify leather that doesn’t have that smell we associate with genuine leather. Below is a quick summary:

          1. Give it a sniff

          One of the best things about leather is its glorious aroma. It’s probably the hardest things for fakers to fake so this is a good starting point.

          2. Read the label!

          Naturally, if the maker of the article has used genuine leather he will want to tell you. So if there’s no label, it may be fair to conclude he has something to hide. Beware also of false or misleading labelling. Designations such as ‘vegan leather’ or ‘faux leather’ or ‘leatherette’ are not leather at all. Some countries have banned this kind of misleading information but we still await a blanket EU ban. Even the terms ‘genuine’ or ‘real’ leather can cause confusion and we have published articles before on what genuine leather actually is.

          3. Get a feel for it

          With its textured surface, genuine leather feels soft and flexible. Fake leather will probably be smooth and somewhat hard or ‘plasticky’. Genuine leather has a warmth to it compared to the coolness of plastic and it can be stretched a little.

          As leather is a 100% natural and organic material, no two pieces are the same

          4. Check for imperfections

          As leather is a 100% natural and organic material, no two pieces are the same. Each piece of leather is like its own fingerprint. If you can compare your piece of ‘leather’ with another you’ll see that they are unique if genuine. If fake, they will look identical. Genuine leather hides will also have natural imperfections. If your piece looks too good to be true, it probably is. In addition, try and check the edges of the leather. The genuine article will be coarse and fibrous whereas a synthetic material will have perfectly straight edges.

          5. Try a little water

          Genuine leather is water resistant but that does not mean it won’t absorb some water on its surface. Fake materials, on the other hand, will be impermeable to water and it will simply run-off. So sprinkle a few drops on the material you’re testing and see what happens.

          One final point on how to tell if it’s real leather: leather is the result of a lot of craftsmanship and knowhow which is why it can seem expensive. We would say it is “reassuringly expensive” because it’s an indication that it’s the real deal and a reflection of the care and expertise that’s gone into its production. If the material you’re examining seems cheaper than you’d normally expect, it’s probably trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Put it down and step away!

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            Mulberry Finds There’s No Substitute For Sustainable Leather

            In Article3 Minutes

            Article

            Vogue India reports that top fashion accessory brand Mulberry is committed to using sustainable leather for its products. Although online searches for “vegan leather” have gone up 60% year on year according to Lyst, the luxury goods maker rightly believes that genuine leather still offers a more sustainable solution than alternatives.

            From fashion leather to automotive leather

            As the Vogue article points out, Mulberry isn’t alone in this: “With many of these vegan alternatives still in their infancy, and often containing synthetic content, luxury fashion houses are increasingly looking at how they can produce cowhide more sustainably.”

            Naturally, the lessons being learned in the fashion world about the enduring appeal and sustainable nature of leather are equally applicable to the world of automotive leather where consumers are being offered similar choices between genuine leather and synthetic alternatives.

            Regenerative farming and traceability

            Mulberry is pursuing several different routes to ensure its leather is as sustainable as possible. Committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2035, it encourages regenerative farming techniques which maintain healthy soil and maximise its ability to store more carbon.

            It also pays close attention to traceability and transparency across its supply chain making it able to trace its hides from farm to finished product. Trusted partners such as Scottish Leather Group, for example, ensure that the source of each piece of leather can be verified. Their farms also operate with net-zero CO2 emissions which further enhances the leather sustainability story.

            “In people’s minds, vegan leather is more sustainable, but in reality, it’s a lot of plastic.”

            Whole lifecycle perspective

            Another perspective on that story is the longevity that leather provides. Leather is not only naturally durable, ensuring many years of productive use, but Mulberry also offers a repair service to extend the life cycle of its products even further. Ultimately, any piece of leather is also biodegradable so can complete the recycling circle in the most natural way.

            A question of perception

            The Vogue article quotes sustainable designer Caroline Massenet (founder of SKIIM Paris, a luxury leather and suede brand): “In people’s minds, vegan leather is more sustainable, but in reality, it’s a lot of plastic.” This is the fundamental challenge facing the automotive leather industry. In terms of sustainability it really is the right product at just the right time – but consumers’ erroneous perceptions need to be changed for them to embrace it once again.

            Read the full article here

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              SAC Halts Use Of Higg Index In Face Of Greenwashing Claims

              In Article, News4 Minutes

              Article

              The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is an organisation that offers major fashion brands an assessment of their products’ environmental impact. It announced that it is pausing its consumer facing transparency programme globally, and undertaking a third party review of the Higg MSI data and methodology.

              This follows a decision by the Norwegian Consumer Authority (NCA) that Norrøna was breaking the law by marketing their outdoor wear as environmentally friendly based on Higg MSI data. The NCA simultaneously warned H&M that their potential use of the Higg MSI data in marketing towards consumers would be considered a breach of the Marketing Control Act.

              The Higg MSI (Material Sustainability Index) is part of the Higg Index suite of tools that scores the environmental impacts of materials. As One 4 Leather has reported before, the index has been controversial among natural material producers, as it regularly scores plastic, petroleum-based materials as more sustainable than natural, renewable materials such as leather, silk, or wool. For example, it scores water impact of materials, but not microplastics potential.

              According to The Guardian, Philippa Grogan of the fashion sustainability consultancy Eco-Age, the Higg MSI fails to present a full picture when offering lifecycle assessments: “If you think of a lifecycle assessment as a clock face, the Higg MSI is only looking at midday to 3pm – only a very selective part of the impact. To represent how sustainable a product is, we need the assessment to go from midnight to midnight – so not just from cradle to shop, but from cradle to grave.”

              “If you think of a lifecycle assessment as a clock face, the Higg MSI is only looking at midday to 3pm – only a very selective part of the impact"

              In October 2020 the global leather industry published an open letter to the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, asking it to suspend the leather score on its Higg MSI, as it was based on inappropriate methodologies and inaccurate and incomplete data. This meant that the Higg MSI data gave leather a disproportionality high score.

              While the Higg MSI data is primarily used by fashion industries, members of One 4 Leather have found that some auto manufacturers use it as part of their consideration of the impacts of materials.

              All of this is happening against the backdrop of updates to the EU consumer rules to prevent greenwashing and empower consumers. The proposed updates introduce a ban on greenwashing as well as bans on planned obsolescence. They oblige traders to provide consumers with information on products’ durability and repairability. This is a powerful reminder to everyone of how sustainable genuine leather truly can be.

              Links:

              Sustainable Apparel Coalition Announcement dated June 27, 2022

              Norwegian Consumer Authority decision Norrøna dated June 14 2022

              Norwegian Consumer Authority H&M letter dated June 14 2022

              One 4 Leather’s previous reporting on Higg Index

              Leather Industry Unites in Call for Higg Index Score for Leather to be Suspended dated Oct 8, 2020

              The Guardian article ‘Fashion brands pause use of sustainability index tool over greenwashing claims’

              European Commission Press Release on new consumer rights and ban on greenwashing dated 30 March 2022

              Read full article here

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                Leather – The Natural Choice For A Restored Car Interior

                In Article2 Minutes

                Article

                Leather Naturally reports on a unique car restoration project from Italy, in which a very special car received a very distinctive makeover.

                The car in question is a magnificent 1930 Lancia Dilambda, which had originally been owned by the eccentric Sir Bernard Montgomery Hall. He had customised every detail of this most elegant car but, beyond 1949, it appeared lost until a car collector rediscovered it seven decades later and set about restoring it to its former glory.

                For the interior, leather – of course – was the natural choice as it is in keeping with the authenticity of the car. Alternatives to leather just would not do. The new owner asked the luxury leather goods maker Serapian to take on the project. The Serapian family have been crafting car leathers in Milan since Stepan Serapian, an Armenian exile, founded his first shop there in 1928.

                They used their signature ‘mosaic craft’ technique of weaving very fine leathers to create a beautiful textured pattern for the seats. Just for good measure, they made matching bags because – well, why not?

                While restoring a vintage car with Milanese leather is beyond most people’s experience, the appeal of automotive leather remains strong for many motorists. It’s not a question of luxury, either, but a matter of practicality. The properties of leather are well known: it’s hardwearing and durable as well as soft and comfortable. Even retrofitting a relatively modern car with leather seats can also enhance its resale value, so it’s far from eccentric to do so!

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                  How Changing Cattle Feed Cuts Leather’s Carbon Footprint

                  In Article, Fact3 Minutes

                  Article

                  Although leather is simply a by-product of the meat industry, its critics often draw a direct connection between its production and the environmental impact of raising cattle. One of the key factors here is the production of soybeans used as cattle feed. Soybean production is regularly cited as being detrimental to the environment due to the pesticides used and possible deforestation to clear land for its cultivation.

                  Measuring leather’s environmental impact

                  Under the PEFCR (Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules) – agreed between leather manufacturers represented by COTANCE, national governments and the European Commission – the impact of cattle rearing is now indeed taken into account when measuring the carbon footprint of leather up to the point of sale (‘cradle to gate’). As a biodegradable material with long usable life, leather also outperforms many alternatives (including ‘vegan leather’) when it comes to a whole lifetime assessment – although this is not specifically covered by the PEFCR. Alternatives may not be as durable as leather and often contain plastics that are highly damaging to the environment in the long term.

                  Still, anything that can reduce the environmental impact of cattle rearing is to be welcomed to further enhance leather’s sustainability credentials. One area being explored is the use of alternative animal feeds to reduce the dependency on crops like soybeans while maintaining animal welfare.

                  More sustainable cattle feed

                  An article in Planet of Plenty describes 5 eco-friendly alternative protein sources for animal feed “which are allowing farmers to increase their output and performance while protecting the world around us.” The new food sources include insects, earthworms, seaweed & microalgae, pea protein and single-cell protein. Insects, in particular, are a rich source of protein and can be reared with a relatively small carbon footprint. Seaweed and microalgae can be used to significantly reduce a cow’s methane output. Methane is a GHG (greenhouse gas) which, although less damaging than CO2 since it lasts only about ten years in the atmosphere, contributes to global warming, so any means of limiting emissions is good news.

                  Allowing farmers to increase their output and performance while protecting the world around us

                  Healthier options

                  According to Planet of Plenty, these alternative foodstuffs are seen as cost-effective feed management strategies that are not only better for the environment but healthier for animals as well. While sustainable animal nutrition won’t happen at scale overnight, it is another tool in the world’s arsenal to tackle climate change and protect the earth from further damage.

                  Read full article here

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                    Market Forces Are Driving Improvements In Animal Welfare

                    In Article4 Minutes

                    Article

                    While leather manufacturers are not directly responsible for raising cattle, they have always had an interest in the welfare of the animals from which hides are derived. The reasons are two-fold: first, a well-cared-for cow will produce a better-quality hide with fewer imperfections and so, ultimately, will make better leather; and, secondly, end customers are curious – now more so than ever – about the source of the leather they buy, demanding reassurance that cattle are ethically treated.

                    Both issues are especially critical in the case of automotive leather upholstery, where unblemished hides are at a premium and car manufacturers are under huge pressure from customers to demonstrate sustainable credentials. An essay on the Nothing to Hide website, entitled The importance of animal welfare to the leather industry, describes how these dual motivations, which have always been a part of the sector, have intensified in the last twenty years across the board. This has resulted in an industry that is far more focused on animal welfare than ever before.

                    Humane standards 

                    The essay, originally published in 2014, has been updated with new insights from animal welfare campaigner Dr Temple Grandin, professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University. Her fundamental contention is that it is permissible for humans to use animals as long as they are treated well right up to the moment of slaughter. Since the 1990s, she has advised on and implemented various systems to ensure the good treatment of cattle, which has resulted in greater transparency and higher standards. In particular, she has developed an auditing system that checks that specific standards are being met. For example, the way animals are corralled, how workers treat them, and how painlessly the cattle are killed come under scrutiny. Facilities must also show that they are being run in a way that any general member of the public would find acceptable.

                    “We can still produce unique things. We can push those ancient techniques further; we can learn from them and build on them… and that’s the future of leatherwork.”

                    Animal welfare in Europe

                    According to Nothing to Hide, the European leather industry is following suit with these kinds of initiatives. Its representative body, COTANCE, launched a plan for better hide traceability as far back as 2011 and has urged tanners to drive better governance. It recognises that, apart from the moral obligations to raise animals ethically, “customers want to know where the leather comes from”. Today, all kinds of traceability schemes are in place around the world to provide full transparency and documentation about where the original hides come from and how the animals – from which the hides were taken – were treated.

                    Market forces

                    Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done to guarantee the welfare of animals everywhere. But there is gathering momentum for more transparency driven largely by fast-food brands – one of the main global customers for cattle farmers. They too are finding themselves answerable to their customers and need to demonstrate that they are doing everything possible to raise cattle responsibly.

                    Read full article here

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