• cotance@euroleather.com

COTANCE call on Helsinki Fashion Week to reconsider its decision to ban leather as of 2019

Helsinki fashion week founder, Evelyn Mora, announced that leather would be banned from her show as of 2019. The press reports that the decision was to take “an active stand against cruelty to animals and the damaging environmental impacts that the use of animal leather brings with it”.

COTANCE, the association representing the European leather industry, deeply regrets this decision and calls on the show organisers to reconsider this unfortunate choice, as it is based on false assumptions and conveys to the general public a manipulated view on the world’s oldest recycling industry.

By banning leather from the Helsinki Fashion Week, their organisers are pre-empting a lifestyle position for their followers, visitors and exhibitors without having consulted them. Such an initiative is rather typical for undemocratic and activist organisations. Fashion shows, promoting values such as multi-culturalism, freedom, beauty and creativity would be well-advised to dissociate themselves from such radical and misleading positions. People following Fashion Shows should be free to choose their own lifestyle and not be constrained by a minority view imposed on them without alternative. 

Red meat consumption inevitably produces a number of non-edible residues, such as the animal’s hides or skins. Accusing tanners to be responsible for their slaughter, worse to put on their shoulders any cruelty possibly inflicted to the animal, equals to incriminating the gravedigger for the death of the person. No slaughter animal is killed for its hide or skin. These are by-products! Thanks to their recovery and recycling, they don’t have to be otherwise disposed of to the detriment of the environment and human or animal health.

Leather is the first and most valuable example of a circular economy. What other recycling sector can claim nearly 100% efficiency in the recovery of this slaughterhouse residue and its recycling into a material whose versatility, properties and beauty have become cult across the globe?

Mrs Mora’s decision for the Helsinki Fashion Week is a profound mistake, as, according to the press, she herself also alerts the public on the questionable ethics and dangers for the environment of vegan leather alternatives. Indeed, most of such alternatives are fossil fuel based, or even worse a combination of plastic and other materials. The former is known today to be responsible for the pollution of the planet’s oceans, apart of the pollution generated during their production. The latter combine these sins with the fact that they can’t be easily separated and constitute thus a challenge for their recycling.

Leather - a fascinating material and a term that ought to be reserved strictly to tanned hides or skins of animals - is unjustly under attack on many fronts, but on none rivals would stand a fact-based and balanced discussion. Consumers should be cautious in front of products that are promoted against alleged faults of others and do not disclose their own bill of materials.

It should be noted that rival materials acknowledge the supremacy of leather by usurping its name (please note the myriad of oxymoron: grape leather, mushroom leather, pineapple leather, synthetic leather, vegan leather…) in an attempt to confuse the consumer and arrogate the appeal of the real thing.

Also, while the chemistry in the tanning industry is known and perfectly manageable under sustainable conditions, competitors to leather avoid disclosing the chemistry used, the environmental footprint of the product and its durability.

Moreover, consumers are lured in the belief that alternatives to leather could be produced sustainably in industrial settings so as to replace leather in the market, while in reality such alternatives occupy only very limited market niches.

Opponents to leather should come up with a sensible response to the question on what to do with the mountains of hides and skins generated for the production of red meat for human consumption if these should no longer be recycled into leather.

The signal sent by the Helsinki Fashion Week to the general public is unfortunate, populist and misleading.

COTANCE calls on the Nordic Fashion Week Group to reconsider the decision taken to eliminate leather as of 2019 and to rather promote the disclosure of Product Environmental Footprints for all materials and products presented in the show if it is serious with its ethical and environmental commitments.

Brussels, 27 August 2018