The third “rencontres du cuir” event hosted by tanneries haas


Tannerie Hass


The National Leather Council asked Tanneries Haas to organise the third Rencontres du Cuir (Leather Encounters) meeting, focusing on production and training issues.

The upstream professions in this industry are not very well known. Take the tannery sector for example: about one month is required to transform a raw hide into finished leather destined for the leather goods, footwear, ready-to-wear or upholstery markets. In Alsace, eastern France, which in its 19th Century heyday boasted some 300 tanneries, Haas produces world-renowned French calf leather. Jean-Christophe Muller has taken the reins of the company founded in 1842. Today it purchases 15% of all French calf hides and exports 35% of its production. Artisanal expertise and industrial development work together wisely in Eichhoffen. 

In April 2015, the visit to Tanneries Haas transported participants of the Rencontres du Cuir to the heart of the leather transformation process. The roundtable discussion that followed examined the challenges of producing high quality French leathers, both in terms of securing adequate supplies of raw materials and finding suitably trained staff.

Why does production of quality French leather need to increase and how can it be done? 

Frank Boehly, President of the National Leather Council 

“French tanneries are recognised worldwide for their unique savoir-faire. France is also the leading producer of tanned calf leather, a material that is in great demand in the leather industry, particularly from the luxury sector, which requires very high quality products. And yet, there has been a drop in the production of premium leathers. Meat consumption is in decline and ringworm is damaging hides. The supply chain needs to be improved.

Jean-Christophe Muller, CEO of Tanneries Haas

“France has always been a calf breeding country but it is facing competition from Holland. Breeding has halved since the 1980s and 80% of French calves do not belong to farmers but to integrators. Targeted actions must be organised to draw attention to the value of the animal. Premises, stables and trucks need to be inspected and maintained. With regards to ringworm, there is no national impetus for action, but it is possible region by region. A campaign to eradicate ringworm in Limousin is currently being considered for example. Ringworm is a European problem. Scandinavia took the problem seriously and has now eradicated it.” 

Training courses to get the best out of the sector

Frank Boehly, President of the National Leather Council

“Unfortunately, training in our sector is poorly adapted to the needs of companies. The priorities we have identified focus mainly on the production of raw materials and the skills of workers. Having a company like Tanneries Haas in our sector shows that we can be proud of being part of such a rich value chain. 

Jean-Christophe Muller, CEO of Tanneries Haas

“In a tannery, the hide is handled between 80 and 100 times and is regularly checked before being tanned and systematically given a code number. This code number means that the material is fully traceable. Consequently, the job of the sorter is crucial.  But there are no schools teaching this skill. A leather sorter is trained on the job for three years. They must be perfectly familiar with the entire production process and the company’s customers. The selection they make dictates production. They have to adapt to every situation. 

Patrice Mignon, President French Leather Goods Federation

“Leather goods manufacturers, like tanneries, can only develop their savoir-faire by combining their creativity with high quality materials and expert manufacturing skills. French leather goods have managed to encourage excellence in the industrial process. In doing so, quality is guaranteed throughout the entire manufacturing cycle as the workers are responsible from A - Z. That is why their training is so crucial. Staff numbers in the leather goods sector are increasing by 1 – 2% per year. But there are not enough early training opportunities (apprenticeships) to meet this increased demand and programmes need to make a huge effort to adapt to the changes in our profession, because we want to see production stay in France, as well as the design side. The “Made In” aspect is crucial in our industry as recognition of the excellence of our sector. If the label is well promoted, it encourages companies to improve further. It’s a win-win situation.