When it comes to materials for aircraft interiors, leather delivers on all fronts: it is durable, comfortable and adds a touch of class. Here, ELeather’s chief commercial officer shares his thoughts on the latest trends with editor Satu Dahl

    The aircraft interior materials industry is constantly innovating to meet evolving requirements
    and provide new appealing features for airlines, and UK-based supplier ELeather is one of
    the market players doing just that.

    The company, which supplies more than 200 airlines globally, provides a product range that maintains the quality and integrity of traditional leather while building in advanced performance characteristics to achieve strong material that is lighter in weight.

    ELeather currently exports its products to in excess of 50 countries.

    The company’s chief commercial officer Nico Den Ouden says the market is focusing on a holistic view at the moment. “A trend that we’re seeing more aircraft manufacturers follow is a holistic approach to design. Rather than concentrating on singular components in silo, the entire space is considered, meaning that designers consider how lighting, smells and sounds will impact a space. This then plays a large role in material selection for the aircraft.”

    Enhanced engineering

    ELeather’s engineered leather is an advanced material made with up to 50 per cent traditional leather fibres. It features controlled stretch, and maintains its form and shape with no bagging even after a prolonged period of use. The manufacturing process uses hydroentanglement technology to lock traditional leather fibres within a high-performance core.

    “The first step in the production process involves breaking down shavings and trimmings of leather into individual leather fibres,” Den Ouden explains. “Leather fibre webs are then interlinked with a core through hydroentanglement – ELeather’s unique and patented process that uses only water to bond the fibres together.”

    He continues: “The result is engineered leather – a high-performance material with all the benefits of traditional leather supplied on a roll without natural markings or defects.”

    Engineered leather retains the look and feel of traditional leather, while offering additional benefits such as enhanced durability, hygiene and versatility, as Den Ouden elaborates. “Our high-performance material is lightweight and reduces the overall weight of the seat. Airline seats fitted with engineered leather are scuff and scratch-resistant, last longer and are easy to clean. This means airlines can make weight and financial savings, while meeting customer needs, delivering exceptional experiences and helping the environment.”

    Sustainability is at the forefront of the industry efforts at the moment. So how do ELeather’s products contribute towards greener aviation? Den Ouden agrees that, currently, there’s a lot of focus on sustainable aviation, especially around the industry’s target of reaching net zero by 2050.

    “The success of this pledge is likely to be determined by how the industry embraces the idea of a circular economy. If aircraft manufacturers apply the principles of the circular economy to their sourcing and design processes, they can reach the 2050 target while remaining profitable.

    “The man-made fibres or plastics found on the vast majority of airplane seats are far from being environmentally friendly: they often contain harmful chemicals and are difficult to recycle. In contrast, ELeather’s engineered leather is manufactured with a reduced carbon footprint, delivering a high-performing and sustainable alternative.”   

    Goals for change

    Den Ouden says sustainability sits at the core of everything the company does – from material selection through

    to manufacturing and the finished product. “Our process starts by diverting unused leather that would otherwise be destined for landfill, taking it through our sustainable production process, and transforming it into a high-performance material that can then be used in a number of ways, including on airplane seats.”

    Den Ouden is happy the industry is standing together and pledging to make change in the UK. “The target of reaching net zero by 2050 for the UK aviation industry is certainly ambitious and robust actions and measures are required to reach it.

    “Still, improved sustainability can be achieved in tandem with increased flights. The future of flight is constantly evolving, and continuous technological advancements coupled with ongoing efforts towards a circular economy are likely to contribute towards the success of this pledge.”

    Sourcing responsibly

    When sourcing its materials, ELeather says it follows an ethical sourcing process. “The leather hides we save from landfill are diverted from tanneries located across mainland Europe,” Den Ouden explains. “We source in line with our ethical sourcing policy based on the triple bottom line: people, plant, profit. All direct material suppliers are assessed based on this and visited to ensure compliance is met.”

    The company also encourages suppliers to bring innovations that help with sustainability in both the logistics supporting its supply chain and the technical make-up of its material. When it comes to the current focus for colour trends, Den Ouden says that another emerging design trend in aviation is “wellness, and how spaces and materials can impact on this. With this in mind, designers are creating colour palettes centred on wellbeing, using natural tones.”

    Making an impact

    Over 200 airlines currently work with ELeather, including the world’s four largest carriers. Regarding the company’s recent projects, Den Ouden gives Aeromexico as an example. “Last year, via our partnership with Aeromexico, the airline reupholstered seating on 64 aircraft and has plans to roll this out across its entire fleet in the coming years. We continue to secure programmes with both new and existing customers as increasingly more airlines identify the importance of sourcing sustainable interior materials that not only help them reduce overall aircraft weight, but have a lower carbon footprint in the way they’re manufactured.”

    ELeather announced in January that it had been included on the Global Cleantech 100 list for the sixth consecutive year. The list aims to find the top 100 private companies with the potential to make significant market impact over the next to manufacturing and the finished product. “Our process starts by diverting unused leather that would otherwise be destined for landfill, taking it through our sustainable production process, and transforming it into a high-performance material that can then be used in a number of ways, including on airplane seats.”

    Den Ouden is happy the industry is standing together and pledging to make change in the UK. “The target of reaching net zero by 2050 for the UK aviation industry is certainly ambitious and robust actions and measures are required to reach it.

    “Still, improved sustainability can be achieved in tandem with increased flights. The future of flight is constantly evolving, and continuous technological advancements coupled with ongoing efforts towards a circular economy are  likely to contribute towards the success of this pledge.”