Color and other innovative tanning techniques are driving

a competitive outerwear market.

Black leather jackets are out, and innovative tanning processes are in.

So say exhibitors in the outerwear category at MAGIC, who maintain that the brilliant colors and textures that are being seen in the rest of the fashion mainstream have crossed over into the realm of outerwear, and that cutting-edge innovations only help the bottom line.

“Black leather jackets are dead,” said Jeff Adler, senior vice president of Adler Leather, a 50-year-old company based in Sylmar, Calif. “In the past, if you were sitting with inventory in just black, it was worth gold. Today, it’s almost worthless. It’s not what the consumer is looking for, and retailers know that.”

Because outerwear as a category has become so competitive in recent years — with not just an increasing number of companies joining the fray, but also big fashion brands producing large volumes of shearling coats and fur-lined parkas — vendors said the only way to stay ahead is to provide a luxurious look at an accessible price point, and continue to create new tanning processes for leather.

HIDE AND SEEK

“You have to have a keen eye for leather skin trends,” said Adler. “Styles will always be more or less the same, so the key is to always find the cutting-edge tanning process.”

This year, that happens to be marbleizing, a technique whereby leathers are given a two-tone look. That, and putting out things like junior-inspired rabbit coats in shades of pink and red that wholesale at $49, have helped Adler Leathers achieve a 20 percent growth in sales in what is otherwise seen as a lackluster year for the industry.

“Retailers want quality, and are not interested in those cheap furs that lose hair,” said Jun Li, owner of Los Angeles-based Funky East Design Inc.

“Also, a variety of color is important — bright green, pinks, light coffee. As long as we give retailers color, in furs like fox and rabbit, business is great.”

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