27 November 2023

The synthetic truth about plastics - Welcome change as The Guardian lifts the veneer on synthetic materials

A specialist in responsible materials at sustainable fashion consultancy The Right Project, Jocelyn Whipple, has called on companies that make and use synthetic materials to stop misusing leather’s name, writes Leatherbiz.

Speaking to The Guardian newspaper for a recent article on fashion, Ms Whipple said that, for transparency reasons, makers and users of alternative materials should “let them ride on their merits” rather than try to give consumers the impression that they can offer “the positive inherent qualities of leather”.

She said the problem with many of the alternatives is that they are products of the fossil fuel industry, leaving them far adrift of what she called the durability, longevity and natural compostability of leather. “We need to call materials what they are,” she insisted.

Secretary of the International Council of Tanners, Dr Kerry Senior, said the article in The Guardian was a good summary of “the very significant issues” around materials that claim to be able to take the place of leather, but that are just plastic.

He pointed out that many of the materials that claim to be plant-based are “with very few exceptions, entirely dependent on plastic for their function”. He said the paper that research body FILK published in 2021 assessing synthetic alternatives demonstrated “poor functional performance”.

He said it was refreshing to see an article in mainstream media calling out plastic-based synthetic alternatives for what they are. “It makes a welcome change,” he concluded.
Image: No contest, as the Gattaca jacket in black lambskin from specialist Paris-based fashion house Jitrois shows.

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