Inspiration for a greener tanning industry from the Arzignano tanning district.

Mauricio Herzovich: “The inferiority complex of the tanning industry”

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March, 20th. Interview with Mauricio Herzovich, Cuero America

GreenLIFE. Considering the constant threats of alternative materials, misconception about their natural quality, animal welfare and environmental concern, among other challenges, that leather is facing, what in your opinion are the prospects of this industry over the next 10 years?

Mauricio Herzovich. The biggest threat to the leather industry is the misinformation of users and the “inferiority complex” of the tanning industry. There are certain groups that call themselves “animal protectors” and proceed with great cunning, essentially to increase their funds. They never criticise the powerful meat industry but only the tanneries. It’s like silencing those that discard the waste and attacking those who collect them for recycling. We know that tanneries discarded their effluents carelessly for many years. That madness was similar and simultaneous with the rest of the industries of the planet. Today, however, the tanning industry is one of the most sustainable ones. Other industries that pollute much more are rarely questioned by the environmentalists. To consider plastic a welcome substitute for leather, and to successfully promote it as “ecological leather,” is indeed quite “miraculous”. No doubt this is an insult to intelligence. As always, the best way is to carry out powerful information campaigns and to expose the manoeuvres of those who lie.

GL. How do you expect the global tannery industry to evolve in the near future? 

MH. It is inevitable to mention that the coronavirus will generate at least this year a blow to the world economy, since China is the engine of manufacturing activity and this epidemic will have a worldwide impact. More specifically, it is not difficult to forecast that the consumption of meat will not decline, so we can therefore expect at least a similar availability of skins for tanning. In order to eliminate more 7,000 tons of skins without polluting, they must continue to be tanned and we will continue to enjoy this comfortable, beautiful, resistant, durable, and biodegradable material. As for the production, I think that the leather raw material must be processed in its place of origin. If the respective governments concerned themselves with ‘defending’ their raw materials, obviously South America and Africa will regain prominence. On the other hand, the fall in the consumption of leather upholstery by the automotive industry may generate an availability, and a fall in prices, that could prompt a strong recovery of its use for clothing, footwear and leather goods. Many fashion trends for 2020/2021 are already showing this. This business may be handled better by small and medium tanneries. Let me clarify that these reflections do not take into account luxury products, which constitute a very different business. In this sector, marketing is essential and the cost of the raw material has only a marginal influence.

GL. How is leather considered in your culture?

MH. I am Argentinian and I live in Buenos Aires, therefore -and in spite of the influence of other trends that the big media promotes for commercial purposes- I live immersed in a culture where leather is a value in itself. But there are factors that are making these values change. As in the whole world, the idea that a petrol based product should be considered ‘ecological’ is permeating some minds. Here too many tanners do not defend their investment in taking care of the environment and let that nonsense circulate, without daring to face it. Another key issue -and this plays a role in many people’s decision-making process- is the huge price difference between leather goods made in Argentina and a Chinese equivalent made from any other material. The impoverished wallet of the average Argentine very often simply cannot afford the best.

GL As a media representative, how would you recommend tanneries to communicate with the people? And what would be the key message to establish and maintain goodwill in the general public towards leather?

MH. For decades I have been encouraging tanneries and their associations to take an active stance towards the pressure of certain media and certain entities that represent no one but have good marketing, and in the face of the laziness of some people to think critically about what they hear. The Italian industry was active in promoting the value of leather, but I think the intensity of their actions has diminished. In the past few years the tanning industry in Brazil (CICB) has been doing a good job. More recently, “Leather Naturally” was established globally, which is only now achieving a certain quality of work and a certain budget, and it is to be hoped that it will also be more effective. It is terrifying to realise that there are environmental organisations that have become prosperous companies and buy shares of the same companies they criticise. For this reason, it is incredible that a state-of-the-art industry such as tanning, which solves an environmental problem, generates products that improve people’s lives, thousands of jobs and wealth for society, would let themselves be beaten. They have to rely on the sector’s specialised media, who know what they are talking about, and support them to extend their communication capacity to consumers. And to work with stylists and designers to achieve with leather what denim has remarkably achieved: to always be fashionable.

 

Mauricio Herzovich is 72 years old. Mauricio has been involved with the leather industry because his father had a leather goods factory. After years of working as a journalist in various newspapers, Mauricio decided to reconnect with the sector, but from his own profession. For almost twenty years Mauricio was a magazine editor for Argentine associations (footwear, leather goods, leather technology) then worked for many years in the English magazine Leather International and its Spanish publication, Curtido y Calzado. Mauricio Herzovich represented fairs like Semaine du Cuir (Paris), Panamerican Leather (Miami) and APLF (Hong Kong) in South America. Mr. Herzovich also created a radio show for the sector and has edited his website CueroAmérica (www.cueroamerica.com) for more than 20 years.

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