French leather industry asks for ban on ‘vegan leather’ and similar terms

The Conseil National du Cuir (CNC), the representative body of France’s leather industry, is keen to defend the meaning of the word ‘leather’ even outside of French borders. Last June, the CNC petitioned France’s Minister for the Economy to demand from the EU Commission a draft directive aimed at protecting the word ‘leather’ as a designation. The goal is to inhibit the now widespread promotional use of expressions like, among others, ‘vegan leather’ and ‘pineapple leather’.


CNC

As the basis for this request, the CNC referred to legislative decree 2010-29, issued by the French government on January 8 2010. The decree states that the word ‘leather’ can only designate a material derived from animal skin that is treated to make it rot-proof. CNC underlined that the decree is not being complied with, though in essence it ought to ban the use of designations that are regarded as incorrect or fraudulent.

Among them, for example, ‘mushroom leather’, ‘wood leather’, ‘eco-leather’, ‘faux leather’, ‘synthetic leather’, ‘fruit leather’ and even ‘Flyleather’, developed by Nike. In the last few weeks, according to FashionNetwork.com sources, the CNC has sent out letters to several companies which are using these terms to promote their products. 

Following the request by the CNC, the French Ministry for the Economy stated that it made the EU Commission aware of  “on the one hand, the imperative and urgent need to establish appropriate measures to ensure the products that circulate on the domestic market are suitably labelled and that the ‘leather’ designation is applied to products of animal origin only, and on the other, of the [need to] draw up with [EU] member states a draft directive for a harmonised definition of the term ‘leather’ and for how this term can be used, in order to allow competition among economic operators to be fair and for consumers to be able to exercise an informed choice.”

Today, Frank Boelhy, president of the CNC, said that “the French leather industry as a whole welcomes the initiative of the Minister for the Economy and Finance, and wishes its request for the protection of the ‘leather’ designation to be heard in Brussels, and acted upon.”

“Vegan leather is something that doesn’t exist!” Jérôme Verdier, president of the French Tannery Federation, said to FashionNetwork.com in January 2017 at a French leather industry conference.

France’s leather industry comprises 9,400 companies with 130,000 employees, and generates a revenue of €25 billion. The country is recognised as a world leader in calfskin and exotic leathers, and is the world’s third-largest exporter of raw leather and hides and of finished leather goods, as well as the thirteenth largest exporter of fine leathers.

The CNC’s statement coincided with trade shows PV Leather and Leatherworld, being held in Paris respectively at the Villepinte exhibition centre on September 19-21, and at the Le Bourget exhibition centre on September 17-20. Both events are dedicated to leather and leather apparel sourcing.

Translated by Nicola Mira

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