Press release // March 2023 // Press editorial office
Interview with the future: What an AI thinks about leather.
Perwanger press releases
Which mountain boot is the right one?
The ultimate equipment for autumn and winter adventures
The cold season is just around the corner and for nature lovers this is the time when the mountains and untouched nature beckon with their fascinating charms. But before you plunge into the cold splendour, there are some important considerations and decisions to make regarding your equipment. Choosing the right mountain boots is first and foremost.
In this article, we take a detailed look at mountain boots and discuss everything you need to know to make your adventure in the mountains safe and comfortable. Whether you are 20 or 50 years old, have a pet or children – our tips and recommendations will help you find the perfect mountain boots and enjoy your nature experience safely..
What characteristics must an ideal mountain boot have to do justice to holidays in the mountains?.
The mountains are breathtaking, but also demanding terrain. They demand protection and support for the feet, and that’s exactly what a good mountain boot should offer. Here we have compiled the most important features that your new mountain boot should definitely have.
The functional mountaineering boot is an indispensable tool for all those who love nature and seek challenge in the mountains. But what really makes a good mountain boot?
But durability and water resistance are not all that distinguishes a good shoe. Your mountain boot should also be breathable at the same time, so that moisture can be transported from the footbed to the outside. Nobody wants to spend hours in the mountains with sweaty and clammy feet. A breathable shoe ensures that the feet stay fresh and dry even during strenuous ascents. Recently, there is not only a wide range of high-quality mountain boots made of environmentally friendly breathable leather, but even full leather shoes that are also lined with genuine leather on the inside and thus guarantee a thoroughly natural foot climate.
In cold mountain regions and on the summit, warmth insulation is the be-all and end-all. A functional mountain boot should protect the feet even in sub-zero temperatures. With this claim, however, you will not only reach every summit – but additionally also the higher price regions when buying the boot. A thorough comparison is particularly worthwhile for alpine shoes. Many well-known outdoor manufacturers offer premium models with excellent insulation properties so that you can enjoy the sporting challenge and the beauty of winter in the mountains without cold toes.
And what about safety? This is where ankle support comes into play. Mountain boots should support the ankle well to prevent injuries. Imagine balancing over rocky terrain or hiking over bumpy ground – your ankle will be grateful for any extra support. The condition of the sole is also an important factor in terms of safety. The tread must provide grip on all surfaces and be slip-resistant; on stony paths or muddy slopes, a reliable sole gives confidence and security to meet any challenge. A robust and easily accessible lacing system is also important. It allows the shoe to be individually adjusted and ensures a firm hold on the foot. Mountain boots should also have toe and heel protection for added safety and durability. As known from good work shoes, this protects against injuries on sharp stone edges or in the event of unforeseen slips on uneven paths during hikes.
After all, a mountain boot needs a certain flexibility in the forefoot to allow a natural gait. The shoe should adapt to the movements of the foot and give you the freedom to explore the mountains at your own pace.
At the same time, a mountain boot must not be too heavy, because a reasonable weight makes hiking and climbing easier. During an arduous and strenuous ascent, every extra gram quickly becomes a burden.
The ideal mountain boot is more than just a piece of equipment, it is a companion that will make your adventures unforgettable.
2. How important are the material and workmanship of a mountain boot and what should be paid particular attention to?
Mountain boots are not just shoes, but the key to unforgettable adventures in the mountains. But what really makes a mountain boot outstanding? The answer lies in the material and the workmanship.
In the world of mountain boots, the choice of materials and the quality of workmanship play a central role. They make the difference between an ordinary mountain boot and an exceptional companion in the wilderness.
In the diversity of the range, one has the quality of choice between shoes made of synthetic material and those made of genuine leather.We dive a little deeper here to understand whether and why genuine leather plays a prominent role in the choice of material.
Perfect materials and craftsmanship for the ultimate mountain boot.
The upper material of a mountain boot is the connection between the feet and nature. It should be robust, durable and adaptable. This is where high-quality leather can show off its strengths to the full. Not only is leather extremely durable and abrasion-resistant, it also adapts to the foot over time, ensuring unsurpassed comfort and an individual fit. When it comes to moisture management, professionally tanned leather also has a lot to offer. Here, leather benefits from the inimitable properties of real skin and is naturally breathable and waterproof at the same time, so that your feet stay dry and fresh even in damp weather. When you wade through a raging stream for the first time in your new hiking boots and your feet stay dry and protected, your hike becomes an unforgettable nature experience rather than a physical ordeal – that is the magic of genuine leather.
Just as important as the upper material is the lining of a mountain boot. A good quality lining should wick away moisture and prevent friction. Imagine being out all day and your feet are in a dry and comfortable environment – that’s the comfort you deserve. We’ve already touched on this topic: When deciding what to buy, you might also want to consider a full leather shoe, i.e. a shoe with a genuine leather upper and lining. Such shoes are a little more expensive, but promise a permanently well-climatised foot without the smell of sweat and moisture.
The sole of a mountain boot is the contact with the ground. Here, the tread determines the grip on the ground. The midsole provides cushioning and stability. Materials such as EVA foam or polyurethane provide comfortable cushioning and protect the feet and knees from impacts. Especially on long descents, cushioning is very important to protect the skeleton and muscles. Many sports shops offer the possibility to test the shoe on a bumpy simulation track.
The invisible basis for the durability and waterproofness of a mountain boot are its seams and glued joints. Make sure that there are no open seams or glued joints. This is the only way to ensure a reliable barrier against water and moisture. A good quality mountaineering boot should also have a well-constructed last that fits the shape of your foot. Every foot is unique and a good last ensures an individual fit and maximum comfort. When your boot fits like a glove and adapts perfectly to your movements, you can feel the subtle difference a good last can make. The workmanship of a mountain boot should be meticulous and precise all round; loose threads or visible defects are a criterion for exclusion when buying. The quality of the workmanship influences the longevity of the shoe, and a well-made shoe will accompany you on many adventures. With a little care, a good shoe will still look and feel as good years later as it did on the first day – that is the result of first-class craftsmanship.
All in all, choosing genuine leather as an upper for mountain boots is a good decision for comfort, durability and performance. Your shoe will provide you with lasting protection from the elements and the comfort to enjoy the beauty of nature to the fullest.
3. How does the fit of a mountaineering boot influence comfort and performance when hiking?
Mountaineering is not just an activity, but a passion that immerses us deeply in the breathtaking world of the mountains. But what makes the difference between a successful climb and an unpleasant experience? The answer usually lies in the fit of the mountaineering boot.
Good fit is the key to the ultimate mountain adventure
The mountains are calling – and with every step up the mountain, the importance of the fit of the mountaineering boot becomes more apparent. A poor fit can make the difference between an unforgettable experience and unpleasant pain. In addition to comfort, stability and precision, fit plays a crucial role in preventing blisters and pressure sores. Slipping in the shoe creates friction, which inevitably leads to painful blisters.
So performance in mountaineering is strongly influenced by the fit of the shoe. As an aside, a well-fitting shoe allows for a more efficient transfer of power to the terrain, which greatly improves your climbing skills and overall performance. If you can move safely in challenging terrain – it is the result of a good fit. Your goal should be a mountaineering boot that feels tailor-made – so every step is a pleasure, you tire less and you can enjoy the landscape and view undisturbed.
The fit not only affects comfort, but also the stability and precision of your gait. A well-fitting shoe gives extra support and prevents painful twisting. Before you go on holiday, wear new shoes for a few hours and break them in. Leather shoes in particular adapt smoothly to the shape of the foot over time due to body heat. A well-broken-in mountain shoe gives you security and control, whether hiking or in difficult climbing passages – a good fit is your ally.
4) What distinguishes mountain boots for different regions and weather conditions?
The world of mountains is as varied as nature itself. Every region has its own challenges and conditions, and that means your mountain boots need to be diverse too. Here we explain which features of mountain boots can affect your mountain adventure in different regions and conditions.
From the snow-covered peaks of the Alps to the hot desert regions of the earth – every mountain adventure is unique. And that is precisely why choosing the right mountain boot is especially important.
Alpine terrain is known for its demanding conditions. Especially in the wet season or in winter, mountain boots with crampon-compatible soles are useful. This special sole construction offers secure grip on icy or stony ground and makes it possible to reach even the highest peaks. But it is not only cold and icy in the mountains. In desert regions, breathability is the key to well-being. Here it is important that the mountain boot protects the feet from overheating and sweating. A lightweight shoe with good ventilation will keep feet cool and dry even in the scorching desert heat. In tropical regions, waterproofing and protection against snakebites are particularly important. In sudden heavy rain or persistent extremely high humidity, a waterproof shoe that dries quickly is indispensable. At the same time, a shoe that protects the foot and ankle from snake and insect bites provides the necessary safety in these areas. In temperate latitudes, conditions are very different and versatility is required. A mountaineering boot that is both waterproof and breathable is best suited to changing weather conditions. Whether you’re hiking through damp forests or climbing rocky trails, your shoe will provide the protection and comfort you need. But there are also special requirements in the high mountains. At extreme altitudes, good insulation is essential to keep your feet warm even in sub-zero temperatures.
5. How important is a non-slip sole in a mountain boot and which tread is recommended for which terrainn?
The mountains are full of surprises and challenges, which is precisely why the tread of the sole is so important. When choosing a mountain boot, you should always consider the terrain you want to explore, because not all ground is the same.
To conquer the mountain world, you not only need the will, but also the right equipment. And that’s where the sole plays a crucial role.
With the right sole on your mountain boot, you can master any terrain and enjoy mountain nature to the fullest for sure.
6. What about environmental protection and sustainability? What should you look for when buying shoes?
At a time when environmental protection and sustainability are at the forefront, it is time to rethink our choice of mountain boots as well. Here are some considerations that can help you make the right choice and protect the environment at the same time.
A holiday in the mountains offers a connection to nature that touches us deeply. But this connection also requires responsibility – responsibility for our planet and the preservation of its treasures. This also applies to our choice of mountain boots.
Sustainable materials are the key to reducing our ecological footprint. Mountain boots made from sustainable materials, such as natural leather or certain synthetic materials that have been manufactured with special care, offer invaluable benefits for the environment and also for our feet. It is simply healthier to hike in mountain boots made from genuine leather that is free of harmful substances, while at the same time conserving resources and reducing waste. However, sustainability is not only evident in the material, but also in the production. Find out about the manufacturer’s production conditions. An environmentally conscious manufacturer relies on resource-saving processes and fair working conditions. Modern leather production, for example, is particularly careful with resources such as water and thus minimises the ecological footprint.
Another key to sustainability is durability. Mountain boots that last a long time need to be replaced less often with new ones, which in turn saves resources. Invest in high-quality shoes that will faithfully accompany you for many years. Leather is a prime example of a durable material. With a little care, leather mountain boots will last almost a lifetime and accompany you on countless adventures. The reparability of mountain boots is an aspect that is often overlooked. Some manufacturers offer a repair service for their shoes, which significantly extends the life of the shoes and reduces the amount of waste. Think of the joy of being able to take your beloved mountain boots to new adventures again and again. Leather shoes are especially good for repairs.
Another help in choosing sustainable mountain boots are certificates and labels. Look for shoes with environmental certificates such as “OEKO-TEX®” or other recognised sustainability seals. These seals confirm that the shoes are environmentally friendly. OEKO-TEX®, for example, tests leather for several hundred harmful substances and certifies that it is free of pollutants.
A final, but no less important point on the subject of sustainability is waste prevention. Dispose of old hiking boots professionally or donate them instead of simply throwing them away. Some manufacturers take back old shoes and recycle them. It is our responsibility to protect nature and make conscious choices that protect our environment. And in this consideration of the entire life cycle of a product (cradle to grave), another advantage of leather comes into play. Because leather lasts a very, very long time, but not forever. And that is a double advantage. Plastics used in mountain boots and other products have a devastating impact on the environment. Microplastic particles that are created when plastics decompose end up in our waters, are ingested by marine life and endanger our ecosystems in the long term. Genuine leather, on the other hand, decomposes naturally and leaves no dangerous residues. It is biodegradable and does not harm our environment. However, many years pass before leather hiking boots have to be disposed of, or even decades if they are well cared for. When it comes to the durability and robustness of a mountain boot made of natural leather, no synthetic product can compete.
No harmful substances and made from European hides: The legendary Perwanger “Nepal” was the first leather to combine water resistance and breathability and was also suitable for bonding the sole to the shoe. “Nepal” from the Perwanger tannery was thus groundbreaking for the development of modern mountain boots and is still a reliable special leather for shoes in alpine sports and for high-quality hiking, mountain and work boots.
Choosing genuine leather for your mountain boots is not only a choice for quality and durability, but also a choice for our environment. You can help reduce microplastic pollution and protect our nature while exploring the beauty of the mountains. We can combine our love of nature with a conscious purchase of mountain boots that respect and protect our planet. The future of mountaineering footwear can be sustainable – and your footwear purchase can slow or accelerate this change.
Interview with the future:
What an AI thinks about leather.
Lorenz Perwanger playing chess with his daughter. The entrepreneur and owner of the South Tyrolean tannery Perwanger likes to try new things and connects the past with the future.
Interview with the future:
What an AI thinks about leather.
Lorenz Perwanger, owner of the traditional South Tyrolean tannery Perwanger, talks about what an artificial intelligence has to say about the future of leather in a computer chat with ChatGPT.
His goal is to find out what an artificial intelligence has to say about the future of leather, the oldest material in the history of mankind - and what a computer intelligence believes can or should be done today for nature conservation and sustainability.
Lorenz Perwanger playing chess with his daughter. The entrepreneur and owner of the South Tyrolean tannery Perwanger likes to try new things and connect the past with the future.
Lorenz Perwanger, owner of the traditional South Tyrolean tannery Perwanger, talks about what an artificial intelligence ChatGPT has to say about the future of leather in a computer chat
His goal is to find out what an artificial intelligence has to say about the future of leather, the oldest material in human history - and what a computer intelligence thinks can or should be done today for conservation and sustainability.
Lorenz Perwanger: Good afternoon. I look forward to our conversation and artificial intelligence’s view of our world and our future. First, I would like to ask that you briefly introduce the OpenAI project and ChatGPT: It’s about artificial intelligence. What is it and where do the answers come from in the following conversation?
ChatGPT in action
Lorenz Perwanger: Leather is an indispensable raw material for the production of high quality hiking boots from the point of view of the tannery Perwanger Leder. Which material would an AI suggest to make hiking boots comfortable, safe and above all sustainable?
ChatGPT: An AI could potentially analyse different materials and manufacturing processes and make suggestions to make hiking boots comfortable, safe and sustainable. An important factor for the sustainability of hiking boots is the choice of material. Leather could be a good choice as it is durable and recyclable. Other materials that could be considered are synthetic fabrics made from sustainable, recyclable sources, or natural materials such as cotton or hemp.
The AI could also make suggestions for making walking shoes that use fewer resources and produce less waste. To do this, it could, for example, suggest the use of environmentally friendly production methods such as pollution reduction or the use of environmentally friendly chemicals.
Another important factor for the comfort and safety of hiking boots is the fit. AI could make suggestions to improve the fit of hiking boots by considering different technologies and materials such as cushioned insoles or breathable mesh fabrics.
Overall, there are many factors that need to be considered to make hiking boots comfortable, safe and sustainable. An AI could be of great help by analysing materials and manufacturing processes and making suggestions to achieve these goals.
Alpine cattle live almost freely in the harsh mountain environment and are therefore particularly robust.
Lorenz Perwanger: There is a discussion, especially among environmentally conscious consumers, about whether leather products are not environmentally friendly, for example, simply because animals have to give their skin for them. Wir als Lederhersteller sagen wie viele Alpenbauern auch, dass es kein nachhaltigeres Material als Leder geben kann, da von uns nur Häute von Tieren aus der Fleisch- und Milchwirtschaft verarbeitet werden. Diese Häute wären ohne die Ledergerbung sogar Abfall und müssten klimaschädlich verbrannt werden. How does an AI evaluate this discussion?
ChatGPT: It is important to consider the sustainability of materials from different perspectives, including environmental, social and economic factors.
However, it is also important to consider the impact of leather production on the environment and animals. Leather production can have an impact on the environment, for example, through the use of chemicals during the tanning process or through the use of energy and water. It is also important to ensure that animals are treated ethically and that leather production does not have a negative impact on wildlife.
In this context, it is important that companies producing leather strive to minimize their impact on the environment and animals and continuously improve their sustainability practices. AI could help support these efforts by analyzing materials and manufacturing processes and making suggestions for improved sustainability. It is important that all stakeholders in this discussion openly and honestly discuss the pros and cons of different materials and manufacturing processes in order to make the best decisions for the environment and animals.
The purity of the water is of particular importance in the tanning process (view over the Lake Lucerne).
Lorenz Perwanger: Above all, water and energy consumption in the tanning process are a particular focus at Perwanger and are constantly checked for potential savings. Wir haben hier bereits viel getan und werden auch weiterhin in eine klimafreundliche Produktion investieren und werden auch gerne KI um Ratschläge bitten. From KI’s point of view, what other advantages could leather offer over mineral oil-based plastics in mountain boot production?
Compared to mineral oil-based plastics, leather is a natural material that is biodegradable. This could be an advantage for the sustainability of hiking boots, as plastics may take longer to decompose and may release harmful chemicals as they break down.
Leather is also durable and can last several decades if properly cared for. This could help reduce the resource burden associated with walking shoes, as fewer shoes would need to be produced to meet demand.
Another advantage of leather could be its breathability. Leather is a natural material that allows air to pass through, which allows moisture to move from the inside to the outside. This can help keep feet dry and comfortable while hiking.
It is important to note that there are also mineral oil-based synthetics that are sustainably produced and may also offer benefits for use in hiking boots. It is important to carefully evaluate the different materials and their impact on sustainability and make the best choice for each specific application. An AI could help perform this evaluation by analysing materials and manufacturing processes and making suggestions for improved sustainability.
Lorenz Perwanger: Is there an illustrative calculation or rule of thumb for how a long product life affects the sustainability of the product?
Chat GPT: There is actually a method called a “Life Cycle Assessment” (LCA) that is used to evaluate the impact of products on the environment throughout their life cycle. A Life Cycle Assessment includes the impacts of a product from raw material extraction through manufacturing, transportation, use, and disposal.
Lorenz Perwanger: From the perspective of a living human being, wearing comfort is of course also an important factor when evaluating hiking boots. What would be particularly important characteristics of a good hiking boot from the point of view of an AI?
ChatGPT: From an AI perspective, some important characteristics of a good mountaineering boot would be:
Important features of a good mountaineering boot:
- Fit: a mountaineering boot should fit well and keep the feet secure and comfortable to prevent injury and increase comfort.
- Durability: A mountaineering boot should be robust and durable to last a long time and not need frequent replacement.
- Breathability: A mountaineering boot should be breathable to be able to transport moisture from the inside to the outside and keep the feet dry and comfortable.
- Slip resistance: A mountaineering boot should be slip-resistant to provide good traction on uneven terrain and prevent injuries from falls.
- Sustainability: A mountaineering boot should be made from sustainable materials and minimise resource consumption and waste.
- Protection: A mountaineering boot should offer the feet sufficient protection from weather conditions and sharp objects.
It is important to note that everyone has different needs and preferences when it comes to the comfort of hiking boots. Therefore, it is important that hiking boots are adapted to the individual wearer and take into account all important features to maximise comfort. An AI could help to analyse these characteristics and make suggestions for improved hiking boots.
Lorenz Perwanger: Perwang leather is found in the top shoes of leading outdoor manufacturers worldwide and from them we know that very great commitment goes precisely in this direction. AI may also be incorporated into the development process in the future. I as a leather manufacturer would still be interested in how the stay of man in almost untouched nature such as mountain nature with the protection of this nature in harmony to bring?.
ChatGPT: It is important that companies involved in the production of outdoor equipment realise that their products have an impact on the environment.
It is important that companies involved in the manufacture of outdoor equipment realise that their products have an impact on the environment. Some measures that companies can take to ensure the protection of nature are:
Using environmentally friendly materials: this includes using recycled materials and choosing materials that are biodegradable.
Sustainable manufacturing practices: This includes reducing waste and energy consumption in production and promoting working conditions that take into account the protection of the environment.
Partnerships with organisations that work to protect nature: By working with such organisations, companies can use their influence to bring about positive change.
Another option is the concept of Leave No Trace, which states that humans leave no trace in nature and leave it as they found it. This can be achieved by avoiding rubbish, following trail rules and respecting rules to protect plants and animals.
There are some measures people can take to ensure the protection of nature in almost untouched areas like the mountains:
Consideration for the environment: this involves following existing rules and regulations and respecting nature as you find it.
Avoidance of harm: This includes not deviating from well-trodden paths and making sure that no rubbish is left behind.
Approval of the local community: It is important to realise that the local community is affected by how you behave in nature and to act accordingly.
Supporting the local community: By supporting local businesses and organisations, you can help to strengthen the local economy and improve the quality of life for people in the area.
There are many more ways in which one can balance the protection of nature. It is important to realise that you have a responsibility and that your choices have an impact on nature.
Lorenz Perwanger: What criteria would an artificial intelligence use or suggest for manufacturing hiking boots to minimize environmental impact.
ChatGPT: An artificial intelligence involved in the manufacture of hiking boots could use or suggest various criteria to minimize environmental impact. For example, an important criterion would be the use of environmentally friendly materials, such as organic cotton instead of conventionally grown cotton, or leather made with vegetable tanning processes.
Another criterion could be the use of recycled materials, such as recycling old hiking boots or other leather products to make new shoes. The use of biodegradable adhesives and other environmentally friendly production technologies could also be considered.
Artificial intelligence could also consider the energy efficiency of manufacturing processes and suggest using more environmentally friendly energy sources such as solar or wind power. Finally, artificial intelligence could also recommend introducing measures to protect workers and the communities where the shoes are made to minimize the impact of production on people and the environment.
Lorenz Perwanger at the headquarters of the family tannery in South Tyrol. This is where Perwanger Nepal, the first special leather for mountain boots, was invented.
This conversation with OpenAI artificial intelligence was conducted by Lorenz Perwanger out of curiosity. Curiosity about the future and curiosity about what an autonomous and self-learning computer program would contribute to emotionally charged topics such as animal welfare, nature conservation and the great love of mountain nature.
It is interesting that some AI suggestions are already being taken into account today at Perwanger in the responsible production of leather, and it certainly remains exciting to see how the manufacture of high-quality outdoor products will continue to develop - perhaps even with the involvement of artificial intelligence.
On request, we will be happy to provide you with video recordings of the special quality features of Perwanger Leder in 4K quality.
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.
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.
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.
A shoe scrapes over rocks | 5 sec.
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.
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.”
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
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.”