Over the years, I’ve worked on many different brands from lots of different categories and in a variety of different countries.
One of the brands I feel very lucky you have worked on in recent years is E-Leather.
They describe themselves on their website as “an award winning, environmentally friendly materials technology company that uses traditional leather fibres and high-powered water to produce a technologically advanced eco-leather material.”
However that doesn’t do them justice.
On an early visit to their site, I noticed a tribute to their founder, the inventor, Chris Bevan (1937-2012). It read…
Somebody said that it “couldn’t be done…”
But, he with a chuckle replied that “maybe it couldn’t,”
but he would be one who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin on his face.
If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing that couldn’t be done,
and he did it.
Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that; at least no one has done it”;
but he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
and the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
without any doubting or quiddit,
he started to sing as he tackled the thing that couldn’t be done,
and he did it.
There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
there are thousands to prophesy failure;
there are thousands to point out to you one by one,
the dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle it in with a bit of a grin,
just take off your coat and go to it;
just start to sing as you tackle the thing that “couldn’t be done,”
and you’ll do it.
It turns out that Chris Bevan was a man who hated unnecessary waste. When he learnt that up to 50% of every leather hide often ends up in landfill, he decided that something needed to be done.
His first idea was to use the leather off-cuts from the shoe industry and turn them into insulation. An idea that wasn’t so much re-cycling but upcycling. The offcuts hadn’t been used but they were still being treated as waste. His idea was to upgrade the wasted into something wanted.
Creating a viable insulation product proved difficult, the fibres would often clog up before forming into the blocks but that didn’t stop Chris.
In some articles I’ve read, new inspiration followed a fall. They report that one day, still looking for a solution, Chris slipped on a bit of shredded leather in the lab, and fell in a heap on top of it. Getting up he noticed how the fibres had been compressed together into what looked like a new mini-sheet of leather. It gave him an idea and rather than insulation, he started to think how he could create a new material.
Unfortunately, I was told the story of fall was just that, a story. However Chris’ determination was genuine and he did finally find an alternative use for the unwanted offcuts which was a new material.
Using what is a now patented technology and based on the wonderfully named “hydro-entanglement”, Chris found a way to sandwich genuine leather fibres around a micro textile inner core, all without the use of any adhesives, so creating a leather-fibre composite which was christened E-Leather. It is a high tech, high performance material that contains a high percentage of real leather, but which is much lighter and more economical than traditional leather.
While it looks and feels just like leather, it can be produced in rolls, something that can’t be done with traditional leather. This means E-Leather is easier to use, considerably reducing manufacturing wastage.
The products were introduced in 2007 and the business has built from an original base in aviation with development of product lines for ground transport, commercial & domestic furniture and footwear. Production and sales have grown rapidly and the company has won numerous green awards along the way.
Not bad for something they said couldn’t be done.
Chris Bevan died in 2012 but the company “still honours the vision of our founder Chris Bevan, and his commitment to the development of a clean technology product and culture”.
For me what makes this brand so special is how it cleverly turns the wasted into the wanted, with a wonderful trinity of benefits – it is a product that is good for businesses, good for customers and good for the planet.