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Nike claims bonded leather could be as game-changing as Flyknit

Nike has released a footwear design made with bonded leather, which it has coined Flyleather, and has said it has the “potential to be as game-changing as Nike Flyknit”.

While it is widely acknowledged in the leather industry that bonded leather (shredded leather pieces bonded together) is inferior to real leather in terms of quality and strength, Nike touts its benefits and calls it a new “super material”.

The company is using discarded leather scrap from the floor of tanneries, and combining them with synthetic fibres and fabric. The material then goes through a finishing process, and is put on a roll to be cut.

It claims that Flyleather looks and feels like premium leather. “Nike Flyleather completely mimics athletic, pigmented full-grain leathers in everything from fit to touch,” says Tony Bignell, Nike’s vice-president of footwear innovation. "Unlike with traditional leathers, Flyleather can be produced with a consistent grade across a broader range of product."

Nike has also claimed:
Creating it uses 90% less water and has an 80% lower carbon footprint than traditional leather manufacturing
A pair of Nike Flyleather shoes has half the carbon footprint of shoes made with traditional leather
Because Nike Flyleather is produced on a roll, it improves cutting efficiency and creates less waste than traditional cut-and-sew methods for full-grain leather
Nike Flyleather is 40% lighter and five times stronger than traditional leather (based on abrasion testing).

“Similar to what Nike Flyknit did for knit, Nike Flyleather can do for leather,” says John Hoke, Nike’s chief design officer. “New technologies and platforms allow us to get closer to working at the molecular level. Flyleather is the latest example of this, and is particularly exciting because it allows for increased potential to extend our craft with more precision. This means opportunity for greater strength, support, elasticity and so on, based on the needs of specific sports.”

Chief sustainability officer Hannah Jones added: “Nike believes in science, and that climate change is real. That’s why Flyleather is a game-changer. As we witness the impact of climate change, the world is getting after a low-carbon economy, and Nike is innovating it.”

However, it is unclear how much of cows’ carbon footprint Nike is attributing to the leather. Although still being debated, the meat and leather industries put the figure at around 7%.

The publisher of sportstextiles has campaigned to educate consumers and journalists about the value of leather through the Nothing to Hide initiative. It is a series of essays that explain different aspects of the science, technology and ecology that underpin the modern leather industry. All contributors are respected authorities in industry and academia.

Image: The first product to feature Nike Flyleather, the Nike Flyleather Tennis Classic

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