By  on July 23, 2007

NEW YORK — The Italian Trade Commission's Arts & Tannery show here last week brought together Italy's top tanneries to present their collections of leathers, exotic skins and shearlings for accessories buyers.

Thirteen exhibitors made up the show, most of whom operate tanneries in the Santa Croce region of Italy, between Florence and Pisa. David Bilanceri, the export manager for Ausonia, a 61-year-old firm that provides vegetable leather for brands such as Banana Republic, Coach and Lambertson Truex, exhibits to attract U.S. brands that want to use organic products.

"What we do is very natural," Bilanceri said. "We use essences from trees, like their fats and greases. It's the most natural type of leather you can find and people here are very sensitive to this."

Mb3 Conceria is another Italian leather company that does almost half of its business in the U.S. The firm sells embossed crocodile leathers and metallic calfskins to Liz Claiborne, Ralph Lauren and Rafe.

"We work in mostly patent and smooth surfaces," said Nuti Marco, managing director. "Our most popular skins are our bright colors, like blue, green and orange."

Conseria Anaconda was one of the few exotic skin manufacturers at the show, offering Indonesian python, anaconda and karung in hand-painted patterns and natural hues. Its python skin sells from 50 to 60 euros per meter, or about $69 to $83 at current exchange, and an entire karung skin can be bought for 30 euros, or about $41. The booth created some traffic, from independent handbag designers to big-name department store merchandisers.

Lucia Santisteban, a design assistant for accessories company Sigerson Morrison, took in the show as a means of inspiration.

"I'm looking for research for our fall-winter 2008 season," Santisteban said. "I'm checking out the textures, finishings and furs."

But some came to buy. Julie Lazarus, designer of two-year-old handbag line Elezar, did some last-minute shopping for her spring collection.

"I'm here because I'm late with spring," she said. "And I wanted to find something unique. The quality here is great and you can find something that no one else has. I am planning on spending $5.50 a foot, but I'll go higher depending on how unique it is."Lazarus perused the exhibitors' tables for a rose-colored leather sample.

"Companies here also have smaller minimums," she said. "And they work with you and want to grow with you."

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