MILAN — Lineapelle organizers were satisfied with the attendance at the three-day leather show, which closed Sept. 24 and drew more than 11,000 visitors from more than 70 countries.
This was considered a good sign by exhibitors in a sector that is rebounding after a tough year that saw exports of hides fall 25 percent and production decrease 23 percent.
The first six months of 2021 showed an initial turnaround as production rose 20.7 percent on a yearly basis and exports grew 25.3 percent, according to data from the Italian tanners’ association UNIC. The sharp rise in the cost of raw materials is weighing on the industry, but employment rates remain relatively stable.
Companies embraced the Lineapelle claim “Imagination & Re-Wonder,” rethinking their projects while not losing sight of issues like responsibility and sustainability. Fulvia Bacchi, Lineapelle’s chief executive officer, underscored that out of the 715 exhibitors from 24 countries, tanneries were well represented, despite the lack of Asian clusters, especially Chinese and Japanese.
Bacchi said companies positioned in the medium-high range of the market are now weathering the situation, while those working with the footwear industry are “suffering the most. Clothing-related firms are stable, but the most successful sector for our businesses is the furniture industry, which has never stopped.”
Eyes are on the automotive industry, after companies such as Volvo declared it is aiming at leather-free car interiors, which exhibitors believe could also be a marketing strategy to haggle over prices.
Lara Toscano, Gruppo Mastrotto’s marketing manager, confirmed that the furniture industry has been the company’s best performing sector in the last year. The lockdowns caused the needs for space to change, “from work to workouts,” Toscano explained. “We therefore implemented up to over 1,400 colors in stock, to be ready to deal with any requests.”
Leather goods and shoes, Toscano underscored, are now showing signs of recovery. To encourage this trend “we focused on higher-performance items, well expressed in our Green Innovation research, which means combining sustainability and technology,” from increasing the supply of chrome- and metal-free collections to brand new products.
“Last year we presented a patent application for an antibacterial and antiviral leather,” Toscano added. The leather prevents the multiplication of bacteria and virus up to 99.9 percent.
Gruppo Mastrotto was also part of “A new point of materials” hub that showed what’s behind the word “sustainability” in the leather industry. It was created by Lineapelle in partnership with D-house by Dyloan and the C.L.A.S.S. (Creativity Lifestyle and Sustainable Synergy) eco-hub.
“A new point of materials” came from “a need to communicate innovation and responsibility in the best way we knew how, leaving behind an old kind of communication that was too generic and inaccurate,” explained C.L.A.S.S. CEO Giusy Bettoni. In practice, “we presented each step of the chain, from the fiber to machinery and the final product, without forgetting each company’s values and their business and human resources management.”
On the one hand, the goal was to bring each effort made by companies toward more sustainable production to light, while on the other it was to give consumers the basis to make a well-founded choice. That is why companies like Stratasys 3D, a worldwide player in the 3D industry, and Framis Italia ran continuous demonstrations throughout the exhibition.
Framis Italia was founded more than 40 years ago in Italy and its core business is the production of polyurethane heat-bonding applications for the clothing industry.
“Our challenge is to keep pursuing a responsible innovation,” explained Andrea Rebonato, Framis Italia’s marketing and product management director. “Our production is based on pillars like the exclusive use of renewable energy and ever smaller quantity of waste production.”
“We started to produce FFPP2 masks last year at the beginning of the pandemic as a natural spin-off of our commitment to a responsible and sustainable company,” said Teodora Karazissis, sales director at Italian Converter.
Karazissis explained how their teams dealt with last year’s problems by boosting their research activity. “In a matter of months we created a digital collection, in order to break down the distance and keep encouraging designers’ creativity.”
At Lineapelle, Italian Converter presented its eco-friendly textile collection “Out of the box.” The top product is Eco Egitto, made of recycled materials and Global Recycle Standard certified, and the result is a soft, transparent yet strong and durable yarn. “Its flexibility makes it perfect to be used in our target sectors, meaning the shoes, fashion and accessories industries,” Karazissis added. Following this path, Italian Convertor is building new production plants to try to create a fully sustainable company.
Lenzing AG, the Austrian company that owns the brand Tencel, showcased its lyocell and Modal fibers that come from the botanic world and are not only durable but also 100 percent biodegradable, and ward off bacterial growth.
Italian tannery Il Ponte Conceria also stayed true to its heritage by choosing wholly vegetable-tanned production. “Our main clients come from the U.S., Japan and South Korea,” said Martina Squarcini, marketing director of the company founded by her grandfather. “We are optimistic about the economic recovery as the need for natural materials and the attention to environment is growing.”
Lineapelle also offered Mipel Lab, a project born of the partnership between the trade show and Assopellettieri, the Italian leather goods firms association. The 13 Italian companies gathered at Mipel Lab represented sales of 500 million euros and annual production of four million pieces thanks to more than 2,200 employees.
Franco Gabbrielli, president of Assopellettieri, underscored that Mipel Lab also has an online version in partnership with Ernst & Young. The website supports business and boosts its strategies, “aiming at increasing market shares abroad, starting from the U.S. and China,” he said.
With this in mind, Mipel Lab’s first edition featured high-end companies like Tivoli Group. CEO Stefano Giacomelli said he was happy with the number of buyers who visited Mipel Lab, with delegations from Europe and the U.S.
“Mipel Lab is a great opportunity to meet new buyers and provide the basis to extend our customer portfolio,” explained Giacomelli, who can boast clients such as Burberry and Patek Philippe. “The idea is to persuade companies which have their production in countries like China and Vietnam to bring part of that production to Italy,” he noted.
Last year was difficult for Tivoli Group as well, with a 25 percent decrease in sales. “The main challenge was to rethink our business models,” added the CEO, “and now we are reaping the rewards, aiming at getting back to pre-COVID-19 levels by the end of 2022.”
The most positive signals are coming from the U.S. market because of new partnerships. The U.S. is an important country for Tivoli’s own brand, too, Smythson. With a focus on digital, Giacomelli said the company wants “to bring online sales to account to more than 50 percent of the total, up from 30 percent, increasing our presence in the travel retail sector.”