5 Questions for Trend Forecaster Consuelo Bellini

Arts & Tannery, a biannual show presenting leather trends from Italy, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year with a continued emphasis on offering luxury goods to U.S. footwear and accessories producers.

“The show represents an occasion to strengthen and build relationships between American designers and Italian producers, emphasizing the role of smaller artisan companies,” said Aldo Donati, president of the Italian Leather System Consortium, a group of 12 tanneries that co-sponsors the New York event, held earlier this month, with the Italian Trade Commission.

According to show organizers, demand among American brands for Italian leathers remains strong. From January to November 2013, the U.S. represented a 25.2 percent share of the market.

“The U.S. is always the first place for [sales],” said Consuelo Bellini, trend forecaster for the consortium. “Italy [offers] a higher-end product because [tanning] techniques have been passed on through generations. There are techniques with [a level of] craftsmanship that just can’t be [replicated].”

Among the Tuscan-based tanneries that participated in this season’s show were A Tema Conceria, Accoppiature Pisane, Atlas Conceria, Benericetti, Bo-Pell Conceria, Conceria Di Urgnano, Mohai Conceria, Natural Pelli, Pellegrini Group, Ri.Pell Conceria, Sanlorenzo and Ta Bru.

Bellini said she encourages large and small manufacturers in the States to consider working with these upscale Italian firms. “Even if you can’t do a big [volume], some tanneries don’t have high minimums and can get a few skins and do a small collection,” she explained.

Here, Bellini discusses the challenges facing the Italian leather industry and previews the big trends for next year.

How closely do the consortium tanneries work with American designers on developing product?
Since shoe and accessories companies have their own stylists, our job is to come here and show our products. We inform designers about why we offer certain colors, treatments and [textures]. After the show, designers can come to Italy and have a deeper look at the collections.

Protecting the environment has been an issue for tanneries. How important is this to Italian producers?
Tanneries are rolling up their sleeves and trying to be more up to date with such issues. In the 1970s, Italian tanneries created consortiums to encourage initiatives such as [purifying] the water used in tanning leather. Because tanneries treat leathers in different ways, if you’re a [footwear] manufacturer and want to be super-conscious about the environment, you can choose a tannery that [offers] vegetable-tanned leathers.

What are some of the challenges facing Italy’s leather industry?
Competition is always there, but it’s a good thing because it pushes [tanneries] to do better. Arts & Tannery is a boutique show catering to high-end brands. These tanneries [continue] to offer high-quality products even if there is an [economic] crisis. [Luxury] brands are always welcomed by [consumers].

How do leather trends originate?
They typically follow the trends of the previous season. [Tanneries] try to keep trends going but also do new things. Then there’s always a bit of intuition. The tanneries, however, try to stay on the same page. They communicate with each other, but don’t do the same thing because buyers want a wide range of product.

What are the major color and material trends for spring ’15?
Colors are very natural and earthy, and are contrasted with saturated colors. For instance, [you might see] the cool colors of desert sand played against bright sky hues. Also, leathers are lighter and softer, and finishes are much smoother.


Spring ’15 Forecast
A look at the key leather color trends.

Dune Trip
Light and dark safari tones such as ash gray are paired with spicy accents ranging from ochre to chestnut.

Candy-inspired pastels, including a powdery pink, are juxtaposed with juvenile brights such as a zippy red.

Cool tones are contrasted with bright, flashy accents that reveal a neon overtone in colors including chartreuse and tomato.

About Face

Sherbet pastels such as bud green and sugary pink are set against autumnal tones, like peacock blue and plum.

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