COVID-19 Updates: For advice and updates for staff, students, and applicants who may have concerns about the coronavirus outbreak please visit our Situation Updates page.

The future of leather: Rolls Royce, Aston Martin and Pittards join the University’s Leather Industry Engagement Day

Date 15.11.2016

A debate on whether leather or synthetics will dominate the market in 2050 was part of the activities that made up this year’s Leather Industry Engagement Day at the University of Northampton.

The Institute for Creative Leather Technologies (ICLT) is a globally-unique research centre based at the University, conducting research that responds to the scientific and technological needs of the automotive, fashion, footwear and allied industries. The Industry Engagement Day on 10 November gave attendees the chance to meet the people at the forefront of the UK’s industry that has a turnover worth around £215 million each year.

Companies, including Rolls-Royce, Pittards and ECCO Shoes, attended a discussion on the benefits of leather compared to synthetics led by Frans van den Haeuvel and Cees van de Sande from Stahl and chaired by World Leather Magazine Editor, Stephen Tierney.

Frans van den Haeuvel said: “Leather has had a bad name in the past because it is associated with third world countries and uses large amounts of water and other chemicals, but we at Stahl are looking at more ways to make leather more sustainable and clean in the future. “

Cees van de Sande commented: “When brands are looking for material to make their products, there are three key factors: cost, performance and availability. Genuine leather is expensive to make and is becoming limited due to us eating less meat than before, which has resulted in synthetics becoming more popular, particularly in the automotive industry.”

Stephen Tierney concluded: “Synthetics are a material in their own right and shouldn’t be believed to be anything else. The real challenge is to add more value for real leather products so the customer knows they are buying something durable and authentic.”

University students and local school pupils were also invited to attend so they could discuss the career possibilities with employers, such as Aston Martin, Church’s Footwear, Pittards, Scottish Leather Group, Eagle Ottawa and Lear Corporation.

Rachel Garwood, Director of the University’s Institute of Creative Leather Technologies, said:  “The fifth Industry Engagement Day turned out the best ever with over 150 delegates attending the morning presentations. This included not only our own students, but students from London College of Fashion and schools pupils. Close interaction between key industry members and students was demonstrated in both the morning’s presentations and the careers event and reflected by some students being offered interviews.”