9 Nov 2022

Industry body the Leather and Hide Council of America (LHCA) has welcomed a decision by non-profit group Textile Exchange to deny material manufacturers the right to apply the term leather to any product derived from sources other than animal hides and skins, writes Leatherbiz.



If, for many, this is no more than stating the obvious, LHCA said it was an important step in helping leather manufacturers combat producers of synthetic alternatives who misuse leather’s cachet to make consumers hold their products in higher esteem than they deserve.

At the start of November, Textile Exchange, which collects data on fibres and materials and publishes standards, announced that it had “a newly released definition of leather”. Helpfully, this brings Textile Exchange’s definition of leather into line with existing standards, including EU directive 94/11/EC, ISO 15115, and EN 15987:2015.

The newly released definition accepts that leather is a hide or skin with its original fibrous structure more or less intact and tanned so it does not rot. It can have hair or wool attached. It can be split before or after tanning. It can have a surface coating of 0.15 millimetres or less.

Furthermore, it says the term ‘recycled leather’ should only be used if the fibre structure remains intact during the recycling process. Leather disintegrated into fibrous particles, small pieces or powders and made into sheets can be referred to as “recycled leather fibre” if a minimum of 50% of their content by weight is dry leather fibres.

“Materials that do not meet the definition above will not be described by Textile Exchange as leather, regardless of any past designation or common usage of the term.”

It said: “There is currently a gap in the legal framing of the classification and naming of the diverse materials sold as alternative materials to leather. This leads to misleading labelling.”

Texas-based Textile Exchange added that it wanted to encourage policymakers to close this gap and said manmade materials that have in the past misused leather’s name will now be grouped into a category called ‘manmade non-fibre materials’ until further legal guidance on the naming and categorisation of these materials are available.

In response, the president of LHCA, Stephen Sothmann, said: “This is a significant step forward in market transparency and consumer labelling. For too long, fashion and footwear brands have hidden the true materials profile of their products from consumers by using ambiguous and misleading terms. We thank Textile Exchange for taking such an important step to promote truth in labelling and hope the organisation’s member brands will embrace increased transparency in consumer marketing.”

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