• cotance@euroleather.com

Apple Abandons FineWoven: Leather Alternatives Prove to Be an Expensive Illusion

When COTANCE Member associations of Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Portugal, Hungary and UK met in Council on May 15, 2024 in Brussels, they addressed among the many burning topics on the industry’s plate, also recent unfair commercial practices affecting the good reputation of leather.

They focused in particular on the recent case of Apple; just six months after its grand debut, Apple has decided to stop production of FineWoven, a material heavily promoted last September as an alternative to high quality leather, according to reliable media reports.

Presented as a durable material meant to "protect an iPhone for years," FineWoven cases started to deteriorate within just a few days. They were loosing color and general appearance from normal use, making every scratch immediately visible and permanent. The volume of customer complaints about FineWoven was so significant that Amazon has added a warning label to its US listing for the product, indicating that it is a "frequently returned item."

It was the market that decreed its failure, as European tanners represented by COTANCE point out.  Apple's 'premium' cases, sold for EUR 70, were quickly criticized as "categorically terrible" and "not in the same class" as Apple’s leather cases, pushing the tech giant to immediately discontinue production.

This consumer dissatisfaction is supported by science.

Research commissioned by UNIC - Italian Tanneries and conducted by Ars Tinctoria revealed that FineWoven "turns out to be a material of fossil origin that expresses a level of durability that is insufficient and completely incomparable to that of leather. In short: it is not as green as it is presented'Ars Tinctoria's comparison was particularly telling as it used leather samples previously used by Apple for its covers, emphasizing the stark difference in quality. Furthermore, the study highlighted that FineWoven consists of a “dense weave of polymer fibers, complicating its recyclability, and is only 1% bio-based”.

It appears that Apple will continue its quest for leather-free materials, under the illusion that more sustainable alternatives exist. Unfortunately, as both studies and consumer feedback confirm, the only truly viable alternative to leather today is leather itself.