MILAN — Versatile and innovative leather hides often accented by a shimmering finish emerged as key trends of the spring 2019 collections presented at the 94th edition of the three-day international leather trade show Lineapelle.The number of visitors for the February edition was stable, compared to the same edition a year earlier, totaling over 20,000 attendees. In particular, the number of French buyers registered a 6 percent uptick, reflecting the growth of the best-performing markets in 2017.According to figures released in Lineapelle’s market trends report for the January to October 2017 period, the industry’s exports totaled 4 billion euros, up 1 percent compared to 2016. The increase was lifted by France, up 5 percent, and China, up 6 percent. The latter's performance marked a turnaround after a two-year period of decreases. The U.S. still lagged behind, as exports to that market dropped 2 percent in 2017.The small increase in exports is a good sign for the Italian tanning industry, with foreign markets accounting for 75 percent of production. Leather destined for the ready-to-wear category showed signs of an uptick in the last quarter, but slid 4 percent in 2017. Conversely, hides aimed at leather goods outpaced all other categories, including shoes, registering a 20 percent increase.“The luxury market registered a significant decrease in the last three years, but in 2017 it showed signs of recovery, with footwear being the most relevant category for us,” said Montebello’s chief executive officer Franco Dalle Mese.For next spring, the tannery, based on the outskirts of Vicenza, in the Veneto region, banked on innovative materials and techniques to boost its sales within the struggling footwear segment.At Lineapelle, Montebello, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, introduced super-thin leather hides matched with elastic fibers for the “elastible” lineup. Once used for ready-to-wear, “it’s become interesting for the footwear segment as well and since many producers are not using leather any longer, this could make it appealing again,” explained Dalle Mese.The company closed 2017 with revenues of 50 million euros. The executive explained how he is committed to diversifying the offer to meet the luxury market’s demand for versatile products. This included working on metallic and glittering effects.Dalle Mese recalled how ready-to-wear was the core business for the company until 2001, accounting for 65 percent, but “then it declined to 10 percent today, mainly because lambskin is much cheaper than bovine leather,” he said.The company also rediscovered the use of vegetable-tanned leather, in keeping with the aim of enhancing eco-friendly production cycles.Sustainability is a focus for the Conceria Stefania tannery, too. “We’ve been looking for sustainable tanning techniques for years now,” said the company’s representative, Giulia Ramponi. “We are equipped with a purification plant and we’re doing our best to limit pollution,” she added.The Lombardy-based company is banking on a recently introduced washable suede — already a bestseller — to stay strong within the footwear division. In order to attract the luxury market, the company reworked the washable suede with highly textured, veining prints, along with laminated and iridescent effects.[caption id="attachment_1202621369" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Conceria Stefania veining prints on suede.[/caption]While consolidated figures will be released next month, the tannery expects to close 2017 on an upbeat note. “Our business grew significantly in 2016, so we are working hard to stay strong,” Ramponi observed, citing the U.S. among the best performing markets, despite the strong euro.Tiziano Niccolis, a sales manager at Conceria Reptilis, a Tuscan tannery specializing in exotic skins, sounded off on Lineapelle. "We are a bit disappointed by this edition of the trade show. Maybe it’s the fair format which is facing a crisis?” he wondered.In keeping with innovative takes on the company’s bestseller, for next spring the tannery introduced hand-painted python skins combining two different graphics and colors on each hide. “These products are versatile, they are ideal for leather goods as well as footwear,” Niccolis explained.Conceria Reptilis is banking on a personalization service, which represents more than 90 percent of the company’s orders. According to Niccolis, this is proving to be effective even though the tannery is expecting a sales decrease of 5 to 7 percent in the year ending Dec. 31, 2017.Lineapelle preview editions in London and New York, held on Jan. 23 at the Ham Yard Hotel and Jan. 31 to Feb. 1 at the Metropolitan Pavillion, respectively, raised the fair’s international profile, according to the trade show executives.The next edition of Lineapelle will take place in Milan from Sept. 25 to 27.
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