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Hide inside: a look into the centre for leather excellence

You can’t help a wry smile when you say it: Northampton is the world centre for excellence in leather.

Perhaps it’s the Kinky Boots thing. Perhaps leather just sounds a bit naughty but if I bring it up Northampton’s leather supremacy in conversation somehow it leads to smirking and that head shakey comment: “ah, Northampton eh?”

You wonder also, in this day and age, whether we are supposed to be all about synthetic alternatives to clothing made from animals. You could argue that if we are rearing animals to eat then making best use of their hides is a more holistic approach. Killing something and throwing it away seems much more barbaric.

For Northamptonshire there is also the long history of working people earning their living making leather in support of the shoe industry. Generations of skills have been handed down and honed into the leathercraft that is now studied and perfected at the University of Northampton.

The Queen’s representative in the county, Lord Lieutenant David Laing, opened the multi-million pound Institute for Creative Leather Technologies at Waterside Campus this month.

The university released the pictures accompanying this article and the following statement about the centre:

Northampton’s pivotal role in the global leather industry is boosted as the Institute for Creative Leather Technologies unveils new centre of excellence

The University of Northampton’s global reputation as a leader in leather education and research has been given a significant boost with the opening of a multimillion pound centre of excellence.

This month saw the official opening of the brand new home of the University’s Institute for Creative Leather Technologies (ICLT) at Waterside Campus, in time for the start of the academic year.

The new facility, which costs £5.5m, will allow the ICLT to bolster its worldwide reputation for delivering technical excellence in education, training and research.

It was opened at a ceremony on Wednesday 18 September by the Lord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire, David Laing.

Rachel Garwood, Director of the ICLT, said: “The ICLT’s new home at Waterside is a fantastic asset for both students and staff – and also the industry as a whole. These new facilities enhance our teaching, training and research, all of which are crucial in supporting the global leather industry. Our reputation for being a leading global leather institute can now continue to grow, which is something Northampton should be proud of.”

University Vice Chancellor, Professor Nick Petford, said: “Northampton has been home of UK leather manufacturing since the Middle Ages and leather technology has been taught at the University, and its predecessor, Nene College, since 1978. We are now delighted to be able to build on this legacy as the ICLT continues its important global role in improving sustainability and environmental practice across the leather supply chain through research and innovation, as well as training the next generation of leather workers to the highest possible standards.”

The 27,000 sq ft two-storey building includes a leather innovation lab (tannery), testing and research labs, teaching space and rooms for commercial organisations to rent, with the tenants having access to the wider facilities.

The ICLT is a globally unique centre embracing the technical, scientific and creative elements of the leather value chain.

Beyond the core areas of Leather Technology, the Institute’s activities are linked to areas such as Fashion, Product Design, Podiatry, Environmental Science, History, Business and Marketing.

This disciplinary mix equips the Institute to work with industry from early concept innovations through to the whole design and production supply chain, from raw materials to end of life, recycling and reuse.

Its research responds to the scientific and technological needs of the automotive, fashion, footwear and allied leather industries.

The new centre replaced the ICLT building at Park Campus, which closed in 2019 as part of the University’s relocation to the town centre Waterside Campus.

The University has signed a 25 year lease on the building, which has been funded by Legal & General Property and delivered by Stoford Developments.

I'm the editor and owner of The NeneQuirer.

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