While brands such as Gucci, Giorgio Armani and Prada were parading at Milan Fashion Week, the leather trade show Lineapelle was taking place at the Fieramilano Rho Convention Center Sept. 20 to 22. Italian and international tanneries tried to get the most out of this fair, which seemed to be more important given the difficult economic momentum.
The value of the Italian tanning industry production fell to 5.2 billion euros, or $ 5.83 billion at current exchange rates, down 2 percent compared with the previous year. Nevertheless, “the country confirmed its international supremacy,” said Graziano Balducci, president both of Lineapelle and Antiba, a Tuscany-based tannery. The Italian leather industry represents 65 percent of European production and 19 percent of world production, which has a $115 billion annual turnover on a global scale.
Exports account for 77 percent of national revenues, totaling 4 billion euros, or $ 4.5 billion. And despite the slowdown in luxury, companies are confident about a turnaround in the next months. “We have seen an increase in the number of visitors, both from Italy and abroad,” he said, and the hope is to close this year at the same levels of 2015.
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During the three-day fair, the focus was on next autumn/winter trends in leather and accessories, as many of the buyers represented the fashion market. The red thread running through all the collections was the search for new tactile experiences, well represented by the “Sensorium” area staged throughout the fair pavilions. Softness and lightness were essential, but the new products were also bright, featuring relief prints that were able to create unexpected effects.
Colorful pony skin and handmade python items stood out from Tuscany tannery Dolmen. “As we produce high-level leather, our only clients are fashion firms,” said Luca Giananti, one of the five partners of the company. “This is why we are suffering from the slowdown in the luxury sector.” Last year, Dolmen sales fell around 7 percent to 42 million euros, or $47.3 billion, compared with 2014. According to Giananti, the key is not to give up and go on investing in innovation, even if “we have to keep the costs low.” Dolmen’s focus is on patent leather and shiny items, to respond to a market demand.
Ecopell 2000 went further, showcasing glow bags and shoes made of particular color pigments, which had a glowing effect under a neon light. Alessandra Giannoni, sole director of the company based near Pisa, underlined that glow items are part of a small collection, but shiny and embossed leather are the most requested ones: “We sell a lot in Europe, Portugal and Spain above all, and also in Asia, mainly China and Vietnam; in the Americas, the U.S. and the Mexican markets are the top performing.”
A large range of creations was displayed by Gruppo Mastrotto, which has sales of 450 million euros, or more than $500 billion based in a leather district near Vicenza, in the northeast of Italy. At the beginning of this year, the company was recognized as the most important global leather supplier by Coach, the American leather accessories group. Exports represent 80 percent of Gruppo Mastrotto’s production, that not only supplies the fashion market but also that of design and automotive – Audi, Volkswagen and Toyota are among its most famous clients.
Shiny colors and natural polished leather were the highlights of the company’s collection, which also includes different types of leather designed for the fashion market and which can be combined in order to match shoes, dresses and bags. “The new trend is using bright colors even in the winter collection for a spring color effect,” said Chiara Mastrotto, president of the group.
Python skins marked by geometric designs were presented by Dimar, founded around 40 years ago near Vicenza and still run by the Franchetti family. Laminated items with a worn effect is another trend that the company believes will have a knock-on effect and Gruppo Mastrotto is on the same track, believing there will always be a high demand for vintage effect leather. Dimar’s best performing market are the U.S., followed by China and Hong Kong.
The fashion, watch and shoe industries are the main industries served by Tuscany-based Caravel. “As a subsidiary of Kering Group, Caravel has a vocation to serve our sisters companies, from Gucci to Yves Saint-Laurent, as well as other major international brands,” said CEO Jean Marie Gigante. “So our key markets are Europe and the U.S.”.
Lineapelle is still “a place that cannot be missed” added Gigante, to present the collections but mainly “to meet companies’ executives and to network.”
Focusing on sustainability while producing highly resistant leather is one more challenge tanneries have been working on these years: Respecting the environment is a plus, but more important is a 100 percent performing leather.
The next edition of Lineapelle will run Feb. 21-23 at Fieramilano Rho. Before that, Lineapelle London will be featuring a preview at the Ham Yard Hotel in January, while New York Metropolitan Pavilion will be the stage for Lineapelle New York from Feb. 1-2.
— By Teresa Potenza