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Leather: Keeping it real

photo_camera Modern process uses no heavy metals

We caught up with William Perrone, President of Perrone Performance Leathers and Textiles, to talk
about common misconceptions about real leather

Q: As a company that offers both synthetic and natural products, what are the advantages and disadvantages of either?

Well, the manufacturing of leather is the second oldest profession in the world and the leather hides. themselves are only a by product of beef production, so it’s the ultimate in upcycling, and if you were just to throw them in the garbage, that wouldn’t be a very efficient use of the of the material.

So in recent years we figured out much cleaner ways to tan. Leather has a higher perceived level of comfort and service life in the aircraft, and people recognise it as their superior product. As leather gets old, it develops a patina, think of an old leather jacket or pair of shoes that has become more comfortable as it has aged. Whereas synthetic when it’s when it’s worn, it’s considered broken.

On the flip side, synthetics in some ways offer durability, convenience and weight advantages. They are also easier to store and have a higher cutting yield. The downside to synthetic is that it’s typically made of petroleum somehow, so when we talk about being green, it depends on how you want to analyse the story. Synthetic material can be lighter, so it can save weight and therefore emissions, however it is a product made in the first instance from oil.

Q: As a company that offers both synthetic and natural products, what are the advantages and disadvantages of either?

Well, the manufacturing of leather is the second oldest profession in the world and the leather hides. themselves are only a by product of beef production, so it’s the ultimate in upcycling, and if you were just to throw them in the garbage, that wouldn’t be a very efficient use of the of the material.
So in recent years we figured out much cleaner ways to tan. Leather has a higher perceived level of comfort and service life in the aircraft, and people recognise it as their superior product. As leather gets thickness etc, so it’s difficult to reach a common unit scale in the aerospace industry. What you must do is set the factory up to be able to be reactive. Time is money and they want what they want, when they want it, so it isn’t about mass production, it’s about quality… but quality done quickly.

Q: How many hides do you typically process a week across all sectors?

Well, aviation rail transportation is our is our main business and approximately 2000 hides per week. And I say in that in somewhere in the 97 percentile.

Q: Are you able to find that leather that sorry that that quantity of raw products locally or do you have to go further
afield?

It depends on the market. So, the premium leather that we make is from South German Bulls, sourced from Northern Europe. Domestically in the United States, there are almost 700,000 head of cattle slaughtered per week, so there’s no lack of raw material there, but if required we can source from around the world.

Q: Is there a secondary market for anything else that comes from the hides, such as gelatine or similar?

Yes, so this is all the rage. We have a new product called Sonoma and our Sonoma leather is exactly that. It is only the
prime panel, the most desirable piece of leather in the cowhide. We also trim the rawhide and convert to either health and beauty products or protein for gummies and collagen, that kind of thing.

Q: So customers find a worn leather look to be desirable, even in a commercial setting?

I don’t really know if it’s desirable as much as it’s mentally acceptable whereas worn synthetic is mentally unacceptable.

Q: You mentioned modernised the processes to tan leather. Can you tell me a bit about reducing the amount of
chromium, and has it been got rid of it all together?

We use vegetable extract and synthetic tanning agents and we don’t need metals anymore at all. The exact tanning process depends on the end use of the leather that we’re producing, whether that is tensile strength, flammability, abrasion resistance.
The vast majority of research and development in the leather industry is a by-product of the automotive industry as
that’s where the money is, and all of the chemical suppliers have to be REACH compliant and conform to the reduced
energy consumption and recyclable water standards that everyone has to abide to.

Bill Perrone

Q: Of course. So I mean you’ve obviously invested in the plants to reach good standards. But now that investment has been made, have you noticed any operational efficiency?

Well, the aerospace industry is very, very small and with approximately 300,000 commercial aircraft seats produced per
year, and each customer wants their own colour, texture, temper, design and material is in the carbon chain of the upholstery leather that is all upcycled to another use as opposed to historically what has been scrapped.

Q: Is there enough understanding among customers that leather is a by-product, and that animals are not slaughtered
just for their hides?

I think that there’s an education that needs to be promoted, that leather use is the ultimate in upcycling product and
also that there’s a post-consumer use for this leather. Once the leather seat covers have gone through their use of life, we
take them back and we convert them into small personal items. So it’s not cradle to grave, it’s cradle to cradle with leather, unlike synthetic.

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