By  on September 30, 2011

MILAN — Despite economic volatility and rising raw material costs, the leather industry is regaining its footing.

According to experts at Mipel, the exhibition of leather goods and accessories held at Milan’s Fiera Milano fairground from Sept. 18 to 21, leather exports are on the rise. In the first four months of 2011, exports rose 25.7 percent to an overall value of 1.2 billion euros, or $1.6 billion at current exchange. The principal leather goods export markets are growing. Japan is up 17 percent, the U.S. 43.7 percent, Hong Kong 52 percent and Russia 10 percent.

Considering that, and the fact that Mipel feted both its 100th show as well as 50 years of activity carried out by AIMPES, the trade association of Italian leather manufacturers, the mood was upbeat.

Visitors totaled 17,630 with about 50 percent, or 8,700, from abroad. Overall, attendance was up 9 percent from the September 2010 fair. Exhibitors, who showed spring 2012 collections of handbags, luggage, travel bags and accessories, totaled 429, with 270 from Italy and 159 from abroad.

“For handbags and accessories, Mipel is the most important fair in the world. To be here means that you’re in the market,” said Roberto Briccola, managing director of Bric’s. “In 100 editions of Mipel, the most important brands were here, and today, the next stars of the emerging decade are here.”

The second-generation Italian brand, established more than 50 years ago in Como, also handles distribution and product licensing. There are currently 55 monobrand stores plus more than 1,000 points of sale, including Bloomingdale’s, Barneys New York and Neiman Marcus. The brand was showing its Missoni for Bric’s line for the first time at Mipel, comprised of luggage and travel bags in a classic Missoni print.

Italian brand Braccialini also reported a healthy outlook, thanks to strength in Asia, Dubai and Lebanon.

“We sell in more than 40 countries worldwide, so it’s helpful not to be tied to a particular market. We’re lucky that although the European countries are momentarily stuck, we’re able to maintain production,” said marketing and communication director Lorenzo Braccialini, who is one of three sons of founder and designer Carla Braccialini, whose company is almost 60 years old. The company organized its own runway show at Milan exhibition space La Permanente, which was an hour-long retrospective of fantasy bags and accessories carried by models in playful themes.

The brand rolled out a flower-power line for spring. The principal theme was bright and vivacious flowers — daisies, roses and calla lilies — in motifs, details and appliqués.

A special line for Valentine’s Day called Rosa will be introduced in early January featuring white and black leather bags adorned with a leather long-stemmed rose. The shoes — a heel, a flat and a leather high-top sneaker — are adorned with leather rose and leaf details.

The new collection for the Tua line is called Sweet Home, created by appliqué cutouts including a picket fence and a clothesline decorated with laundry-shaped charms.

Principe Spa is the licensee of brands such as Fornarina, Killah and Borsalino and has held the license of 130-year-old Biella-born brand Cerutti 1881 for about 16 years. They have more than 3,000 points of sale worldwide and sell in more than 55 countries, excluding Canada and the U.S., citing that North America’s not an easy market these days. Cerutti 1881 displayed a soft, natural trend through a clean silhouette in calf leather. Most bags were neutral and unembroidered in white, cream, brown, mustard, gray and black.

Agatha Ruiz de la Prada licensee Mundi Union S.L. showcased brightly colored accessories. Since 1992, it’s developed its own brand called Mundi Accessories, and about two years ago became the licensee of De La Prada, distributing handbags, leather goods, umbrellas and women’s shoes. The new collection Arcoiris included a rainbow of fuchsia, green and orange with heart details. The Bolas collection was similarly colorful but featured a bag made of woven paper and wooden beads.

Simod SPA licenses Ermanno by Ermanno Scervino showed on-trend bags, most in mix-and-match combinations. The Broom collection included fringe and metal chains, as well as studs, rhinestones and charms, which covered the surface of neutral leather bags, bringing movement and light. Many models had a woven motif, intrecciato, in the bag and handle. The Gardenia collection capitalized on a lace trend with ladylike clutches in black.

Braccialini-owned brand Gherardini also showcased lace and fine lacelike details in its white leather Copacabana model.

Brands also nodded to the Eighties with fluorescent colors such as a black neoprene shopper with bright orange handles from Fiorucci, which is licensed by the Volpi Group Srl.

Special events for the Mipel centenary included an exhibit “From 1 to 100,” dedicated to the big brands that got their start at Mipel, such as Coccinelle, Delsey, I Santi and Mandarina Duck. A runway show was organized at the fairgrounds to exhibit bags from brands such as Bric’s, Bonfanti, Marino Orlandi and Ripani.

The 101st edition of Mipel is scheduled for March 4 to 7.

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