Press release // February 2022 // Press editorial office

Inimitably good: A plea for genuine leather

Press release // March 2022 // Press editorial office

The leather industry would like to see a turnaround in the evaluation of outdoor materials

Press release // May 2022 // Press editorial office

Video footage:
The special features of Perwanger leather

Perwanger press releases

"Inimitably good: a plea for genuine leather".

Modern consumers are aware of their responsibility towards the environment when shopping. When choosing clothes and shoes, people like to apply the same criteria as they do when buying food:

The production conditions of the footwear or garment as well as the origin of the raw materials should be as transparent as possible, exploitative manufacturing processes and child labor should be avoided, the raw materials should be purely organic without the use of mineral oil and plastics and, if you mean even better for yourself and the environment, look for a vegan seal of approval.

Can the world’s oldest raw material convince modern consumers?

When transferring these evaluation criteria from food to clothing and outdoor equipment, products made of leather do not come off particularly well at first glance, even if they are made with high-quality raw material and by hand. This is why there has been a growing supply of synthetic materials and leather substitutes in recent years. Perhaps it is worth taking a second look: Can these really hold a candle to traditional leather in terms of sustainability and wearing comfort?

The second skin from nature

We ask Lorenz Perwanger, owner of the traditional South Tyrolean tannery Perwanger and one of the inventors of the modern mountain boot: How does leather compare to synthetic materials, for example, in terms of comfort and durability of mountain boots?

The answer is unmistakably in favour of leather: “Living skin is a work of art of nature: it protects its wearers from cold, dirt and weather, it is absolutely waterproof and it still allows moisture to escape from the inside into the surrounding air when you sweat. Our goal has always been to preserve these positive properties of natural skin in leather – and to surpass them in terms of durability and robustness. This is exactly what our leathers can now really offer: We supply our special Nepal leather, for example, for the production of the most demanding outdoor shoes worldwide – for top alpine sports as well as for forestry boots and motorbike boots. Perwanger Nepal combines these natural comfort and climate characteristics, which are difficult to imitate with synthetic products, with convincing wearing comfort and scratch resistance. Our leather is therefore particularly in demand when it comes to reliability and top performance.”

From Lorenz Perwanger’s enthusiastic answer we can read his fascination for this material, which has been providing people with protection against wet, heat and cold for thousands of years. And he is not alone in this, because leather is a true all-rounder and is used in shoes, clothing, fashion and living accessories as well as furniture. Leather not only impresses with its feel and look, but also has many functional properties such as durability, tear resistance and breathability.

Although the preservation of animal skin through tanning is probably the oldest craft in the history of mankind, modern tanning processes are continuously being refined and improved. With this willingness to innovate, the nature-loving South Tyrolean Perwanger family has succeeded in producing the first waterproof leather that can be glued to the sole. Properties that made the production of our modern breathable and waterproof mountain and hiking boots possible in the first place. But it is not only the leather properties that are improved; animal welfare and the environmental balance in the manufacturing process are also the focus of European tanneries.

Modern Perwanger leather combines comfort and breathability with scratch resistance and long life.

Need for environmental protection: PFC-free materials

Safe manufacturing processes should be a basic condition for all outdoor products, not only for leather. Many manufacturers have already responded to consumer demands for transparency and disclose production conditions.

When it comes to PFC, however, the nature-loving outdoor industry plays on its reputation. PFC substances give outdoor and work clothing such as jackets or shoes water-, grease- and dirt-repellent properties and are therefore popular. The term PFC covers perfluorinated and polyfluorinated chemicals. They are often highly controversial PTB substances that are persistent (permanent), bioaccumulative (accumulating in nature and organisms) and toxic (having a poisonous effect). Even the smallest particles, such as those produced by the abrasion of jackets and shoes, accumulate in nature and pose an increasing danger to agricultural land and our drinking water. PFCs can already be detected everywhere in nature, even in the most remote mountain lakes.

Lorenz Peranger emphasises the harmlessness of leather: “Natural leather scores particularly well when it comes to accumulative and long-term environmental poisoning, because leather is a high-quality and natural alternative to PFC-treated synthetic fibres – leather leaves no toxic “eternity residues” in nature, even after being thrown away. And skilfully tanned leather offers the coveted properties for outdoor products even without PFC substances: It is waterproof and breathable at the same time, it is robust and comfortable, it lasts a lifetime and it leaves no harmful residues in nature.”

Why leather is much better for the environment than its reputation

When it comes to the environment and leather, nature lover and tanner Lorenz Perwanger is in his element:

Point 1: The hides for responsibly produced leather come exclusively from meat and dairy farming. They are a pure by-product. If we did not process them into leather, they would have to be thrown away and destroyed. No animal has to die for Perwanger leather.

Point 2: Environmental protection in the tanning process. In almost all European tanneries, the tanning processes are constantly being improved and modern resource-saving machines are in use. The environmental idea is not new, especially to the tradition-conscious, craft-oriented tanners. The Perwanger tannery moved to Arzignano in Italy more than 30 years ago to protect our water. There you will find one of the most modern sewage treatment plants in Europe, to which we have been connected ever since.”

Lorenz Perwanger continues: “Ultimately Point 3: the long durability of leather. With a little care, leather shoes last a lifetime – in the past they were passed down through generations. This extraordinarily long lifespan is an important point in sustainability calculations from the perspective of “cradle to grave” – this refers to the consideration of the energy and resource consumption of an entire “product life”, from production to destruction.

If you use things for a long time, you save raw materials and energy that would be needed to produce new products. Quite apart from the responsible use of a natural raw material, a mountaineering boot becomes more and more comfortable over the course of time, and the fissures and quirks tell stories of the climbing and hiking adventures that you like to think back on. So in this respect, too, leather is a piece of real life.”

 

There is no substitute for natural leather

If you wander through the shelves of outdoor outfitters, you will find a variety of modern synthetic materials. One reason for turning to such alternative materials is the higher costs associated with elaborately finished and technically convincing types of leather. Now it is obvious to attribute the proven positive leather properties to synthetically produced materials as well. It is also important to know that “leather” is not a legally protected term in Germany and numerous substitutes advertise the unique properties of the original.

The umbrella organisation of the European tanners’ associations, COTANCE, therefore commissioned a study to clarify whether such “pseudo-leathers” actually have the same advantages as the original. (The study in English can be found at https://www.mdpi.com/2079-6412/11/2/226). The study examined technical material properties such as robustness and durability or breathability as well as the look or feel of the material. Although some of the materials examined came very close to individual properties of real leather, none of the substitutes tested was able to combine all the special features characteristic of leather. Some of the synthetic materials tested, on the other hand, even contained substances that were harmful to health or the environment.

“We are delighted, of course, that we have been able to find a substitute for leather.

“We are of course pleased with such a positive result for our traditionally produced leather,” says Lorenz Perwanger. “In addition to the scientific consideration of the study, it is of course also important for me to consider the subjectively perceived advantages of genuine leather: Leather combines the noblest characteristics of natural skin. It is a warm, living material that I trust to protect me from even the toughest challenges of nature. Perwanger leather comes from mountain nature and is also worn there. For me, no other material would come into question for my mountain boots for that reason alone.”

The leather industry would like to see a turnaround in the evaluation of outdoor materials

Lorenz Perwanger at the tannery’s old headquarters in Auer, South Tyrol, Italy: “With our leather, we help to ensure that plastics are not carried into our forests and mountains.”

The global leather industry gives impetus to the UN climate summit – Lorenz Perwanger (Perwanger Tannery, Arzignano Italy) explains the background to us

Ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, leaders of the international leather industry have signed a Leather Manifesto calling on decision-makers to now officially prioritise natural fibres such as leather, cotton and wool over synthetic fossil fuel-based materials.

Datered by current considerations on the sustainability of natural and man-made materials in the ‘cradle-to-grave’ cycle, i.e. over the entire life of a product from manufacture to destruction, and the respective potential for reducing the environmental impact of consumer goods.

The Perwanger tannery welcomes the leather manifesto. Lorenz Perwanger, nature lover and owner of the family business, explains the reasons to us: The Perwanger tannery is dedicated to producing high-quality, extremely robust special leathers for hiking, forestry and work shoes. As a global supplier for shoes of leading outdoor brands, the traditional South Tyrolean tannery Perwanger has felt connected to nature for more than 200 years. And today, too, there is a focus on the protection of the native Alpine region, traditional craftsmanship and a holistic view of nature.

Mr. Perwanger, what does the Leather Manifesto want and what does it demand?

Nature lovers in particular also want to preserve and protect nature with their purchasing decisions for outdoor products, clothing, equipment and footwear for hunting, forestry work, alpine sports or hiking. This long overdue manifesto calls for nothing less than a rethink in the assessment of the environmental impact of synthetic materials compared to natural leather.

In recent years, leather products have been accused in the media of being harmful and not environmentally friendly in terms of animal welfare and due to water-intensive tanning. Reports on leather production under irresponsible working and environmental conditions in Asia have also brought European leather manufacturers into disrepute and subsequently led to a boom in synthetic materials among outdoor outfitters.

With its manifesto, the association of the international leather industry now wants to stop this trend and have the environmental and climate impacts of the raw materials for outdoor products re-examined and corrected.

In fact, what has been neglected in previous considerations is above all the view of the entire product life cycle – from the production of the material to the incineration of the end product as waste. Synthetic materials are produced with considerable energy and resource consumption. Most chemically produced fibres are also made from fossil fuels, put simply: using petroleum. How damaging this is to the climate should be obvious to us by now.

Mr Perwanger, let’s take a look at possible pollutants for nature and for the skin.

The Manifesto wants to point out that due to a preference for synthetics over leather, a lot of damage is done to the environment.

Not only the worrying CO2 footprint in manufacturing, but also the environmental impact that is created during the use of synthetic materials can now hardly be overlooked: To make synthetic materials as comfortable, waterproof and breathable as leather, they are often treated with PFC (per- and polyfluorinated chemicals). The harmful PFC substances from the abrasion of clothing and shoes are hardly broken down and accumulate in nature. PFC can already be detected everywhere in nature, right up to the loneliest mountain regions and remotest lakes.

Personally, the desire for factual clarification is particularly close to my heart, not only as a manufacturer of leather, but above all as a mountain person and lover of our alpine flora and fauna. In the spirit of the Leather Manifesto, I hope to give impulses for rethinking with my commitment as well.

Let’s also take up the already mentioned accusations regarding animal welfare and water pollution: These refer exclusively to irresponsible leather producers.

The opposite is true for European tanners and for us: with the Perwanger tannery, for example, we have always been committed to a uniquely high leather quality. And this starts with the search for the highest quality raw materials. We have always found what we are looking for on our own doorstep: To this day, we mainly refine hides from cattle from the Alpine region. These mountain cattle are often raised in a natural environment, they spend their summers on alpine pastures, and many of ‘our’ alpine farmers even run organic farms. We have a good reason for our choice. The hides of the robust mountain cattle are thicker and more resistant than those of cattle kept indoors, or worse: from factory farming. Alpine cattle have a wonderful life – out in the mountain nature and in the clear air of the high-altitude meadows.

It is especially important to me to emphasise: Not a single animal has to die for the leather production. The hides come exclusively from cattle from meat and dairy farming. We tanners – here again I can speak for all European tanneries – refine with the hide a part of the animal that would simply be waste without our work. We turn the hides into a ‘natural raw material that can be used and worn in nature for years or decades without causing any harm.

Lorenz Perwanger: For me, these are convincing arguments for leather

  • Perwanger leather is a by-product of meat and dairy farming – no animal has to die for Perwanger leather.
  • Our leather comes mainly from the Alpine region and partly from near-natural animal husbandry.
  • The utilization of the hides supports the farmers in the traditional livestock farming in the Alps.
  • Perwanger leather offers unique comfort for the foot.
  • Perwanger leather is extremely robust and durable.
  • Perwanger leather is free of harmful substances with letter and seal.

Incidentally, Perwanger leather is proven to be 100% free of harmful substances. We recently had this proven again with a study by OEKO-TEX®. Unlike many synthetic materials, nature lovers can be sure that no harmful substances get on their skin or into the environment with Perwanger leather.

Material properties and durability should also be included in the assessment regarding the sustainability of leather?

Incidentally, Perwanger leather is proven to be 100% free of harmful substances. We recently had this proven again with a study by OEKO-TEX®. Unlike many synthetic materials, nature lovers can be sure that no harmful substances get on their skin or into the environment with Perwanger leather.

“With Perwanger leather, we try to preserve the unique properties of natural skin and even surpass them if possible.”

For more than 200 years, our claim has been to preserve the incomparable properties of the natural hide in leather … or, if possible, to enhance them. If you wear a full-grain leather mountain boot (full-grain leather is what it is called when the inner lining and outer skin are made of leather), then you will probably experience what I mean by these unique properties: our Perwanger leather is reliably waterproof like natural skin – no rain or water can penetrate the boot. And yet it conducts moisture from the inside to the outside. The foot does not develop a sweaty smell and the supple wearing comfort of skin-friendly leather cannot be compared with any other material in my opinion. In addition, our tanning processes give the leather a scratch resistance and robustness that makes it possible that, with a little care, the shoe can be worn for years, perhaps for a lifetime. This incomparably long service life is an important argument for the sustainability of leather compared to plastics, because with every pair of shoes that does not have to be thrown away and produced anew, raw materials and energy resources are conserved to a considerable extent.

Mr Perwanger, in summary, do you wish manufacturers and consumers would take a new look at leather products?

Of course - I can only wish for that because of the arguments already mentioned for the mountain world, for our environment and for our future. With every purchase, the consumer decides whether synthetics or leather will be carried into our forests and mountains - and which material, synthetic or leather, will become mankind's legacy to nature in the long run. My opinion is quite clear: I would like to see a clear commitment to leather from the consumer and shelves in outdoor stores that are completely free of products made of plastic.

Our materials influence our climate

  • The world needs materials that are sustainable, renewable, recyclable, biodegradable and, most importantly, do not contribute to atmospheric carbon pollution.
  • Natural fibers such as leather, cotton, wool, mohair, alpaca, silk, hemp and mycelium are part of the biogenic carbon cycle and as such consist of carbon that has been present in the atmosphere for thousands of years.
  • These readily available raw materials, when produced ethically, are important substitutes for fossil fuels, reduce the need for their extraction, and retain more carbon in the earth.
  • In addition, properly manufactured natural materials biodegrade at the end of their life, limiting their impact and reducing harmful emissions such as microplastic pollution that are often associated with the synthetic materials they replace.
  • With specific reference to leather, the leather manufacturing sector recycles an unavoidable waste from the food industry to produce a versatile, durable and unique material that is ideal for the circular economy the world must move towards.
  • However, these same materials are often dismissed for lack of understanding of the manufacturing process and its supply chain, or through the application of questionable science in general in the form of incomplete and incomparable or outdated Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs), promoting the commercialization of new, often fossil fuel-based materials that claim an unsubstantiated level of sustainability.
  • As some emerging climate science studies such as the GWP* model show, the production and use of biogenic materials does not generally contribute to atmospheric warming, and where it does, the effects are short-lived. This is in contrast to materials produced from fossil fuels, which release carbon that has been trapped in the Earth’s core for millennia and will remain in the environment, contributing to climate change.

Therefore, we, the undersigned organizations, call upon the COP26 Forum to …

… recognize the cyclical, climate-efficient nature of natural fibers and their potential to make a positive contribution to reducing the climate impact of consumer products.

… promote the use of natural fibers wherever possible and avoid fossil fuel-based materials.

… support life cycle assessment methods that accurately consider environmental impacts of fossil fuel-based materials, including end-of-life properties.

… to promote “slow fashion”, durable products and items that can be used many times, repaired and reconditioned, and last for years.

Signatories of the Leather Manifesto

  • Asociación Española del Curtido (ACEXPIEL – Spanish Tanners’ Association)
  • Associação Portuguesa dos Industriais de Curtumes (APIC – Portugal Tanners’ Association)
  • Association of Dutch Hide Traders (V.N.H.)
  • Australian Hide Skin and Leather Exporters‘ Association Inc. (AHSLEA)
  • Cámara de la Industria de Curtiduría del Estado de Guanajuato – México (CICUR)
  • Cámara Nacional de la Industria de Curtiduría – México (CANALCUR)
  • Centre for the Brazilian Tanning Industry (CICB)
  • Centro Tecnológico das Indústrias do Couro (CTIC – Leather Center in Portugal)
  • China Leather Industry Association
  • Confederation of National Associations of Tanners and Dressers of the European Community (COTANCE)
  • Dutch Association of Leather Chemists & Technicians (NVLST)
  • International Council of Hides, Skins and Leather Traders Association (ICHSLTA)
  • International Council of Tanners (ICT)
  • International Union of Leather Technologists and Chemists Societies (IULTCS)
  • Fachverband der Textil–, Bekleidungs–, Schuh– und Lederindustrie – Berufsgruppe Ledererzeugende Industrie (Austrian Association of Textile, Clothing, Shoe and Leather Industry – Leather Producing Industry Group)
  • Fédération Française des Cuirs et Peaux (French Hides & Skins Association)
  • Fédération Française Tannerie Megisserie (French Tanners Association)
  • Leather and Hide Council of America
  • Leather Cluster Barcelona
  • Leather Naturally
  • Leather UK
  • Leather Working Group
  • One 4 Leather
  • Society of Leather Technologists and Chemists
  • Sustainable Leather Foundation
  • Swedish Tanners Association
  • Turkish Leather Industrialists Association (TLIA)
  • UNIC Concerie Italiane (Italian Tanneries Association)
  • Verband der Deutschen Lederindustrie e.V. (TUV – German Leather Federation)
  • Wirtschaftsverband Häute/Leder (WHL – German Hide and Leather Association)
  • Zimbabwe Leather Development Council

Video footage

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On request, we will be happy to provide you with video recordings of the special quality features of Perwanger Leder in 4K quality.

Breathability

Perwanger leather is waterproof – and yet air and moisture can permeate our leather from the inside out. This is one of the most important leather properties for modern breathable footwear.

Experimental proof of breathability | 7 sec.

Experimental proof of breathability | 14 sec.

Birth of waterdrops | 35 sec.

Closeup: waterdrops forward run | 47 sec.

Macro: birth of waterdrops | 29 sec.

Water resistance

Even running water cannot penetrate Perwanger leather, but rolls off the specially tanned surface. This keeps the foot dry and comfortable at all times.

A single drop falls onto a leather surface | 4 sec.

Water starts dripping on a leather surface | 9 sec.

A line of drops bead off leather| 14 sec.

Rain on a leather surface | 13 sec.

Rain on a trekking shoe | 21 sec.

Scratch-resistant

Perwanger leather is particularly scratch-resistant and robust. Perwanger leather thus protects the foot from injury even in rough terrain and gives the shoe exceptional durability.

A nail scrapes over leather | 1:04 sec.

Rock break | 14 sec.

A shoe scrapes over rocks | 5 sec.

Perwanger leather

Perwanger leather is characterised by a particularly lively, robust and breathable surface.

Leather surface | 13 sec.

Closeup: leather surface | 23 sec.

Macro: leather surface | 10 sec.

 

Leather wave | 10 sec.