NEW YORK — Sustainability and innovation were front and center at the New York edition of Lineapelle, the Italian-based international trade fair for the leather goods market.
The New York show marked the 101st year for the show, which has held a U.S. edition for more than 25 years. The latest American show saw an uptick in attendance, up 36 percent compared to last year, according to Fulvia Bacchi, Lineapelle chief executive officer and UNIC general manager, with more than 100 international exhibitors.
“The American market has always been very attractive, the U.S. is and always has been one of the main destinations for our products,” Bacchi explained. “It is a market that we follow very carefully because it reflects the changes taking place also in terms of delocalization. China, Vietnam, South America depend a lot on the U.S. and our exhibitors see it as a point of reference for global business.”
According to the Italian Tanners’ Association, exports of leathers made in Italy to the U.S. for the first nine months of 2022 amounted to more than 145 million euros, up 7.2 percent compared to 2021 and 5 percent compared to 2019, exceeding the levels of business prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.
The show floor was buzzing over the two-day fair, despite of economic uncertainty and an evolving geopolitical situation in Europe.
“I would say that Italy, with its great manufacturing tradition, is currently holding the position,” Bacchi said, when asked how the political instability in Europe will affect the tannery sector in 2023. “This is especially true for the Italian tanning sector, which is a sector that has made environmental commitments — demonstrating respect toward the consumer and counting this as one of its strengths. We expect a 2023 with some difficulties, but with the awareness that ‘Made in Italy’ leather is a plus that fashion and design brands cannot give up.“
Sustainability was a key focus in meetings and at the show’s popular trend presentation, looking ahead to spring 2024. “Today it [sustainability] is certainly an important issue in the American market, where the interest, compared to the European market, was born at a later time, but is strongly felt in terms of importance and centrality by both companies and consumers,” said Chiara Mastrotto, president and CEO of Gruppo Mastrotto, an exhibitor at the show. “Given that the big American brands very often have global and articulated supply chains, it becomes essential that sustainability can affect and involve the entire production and supply chain.”
The CEO pointed out that Gruppo Mastrotto has a traceability of 85 percent, with the international certification from the Leather Working Group.
“Given the growing sensitivity toward sustainability issues in the American market, we have checked the bio-based content of our leathers by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA Bio-based label certifies that a product contains bio-renewable material, which is the portion of a product that comes from a renewable source. Using materials from renewable sources helps reduce the use of non-renewable, fossil-based raw materials,” the executive said, adding that Gruppo Mastrotto is the first tannery in the world to have obtained the certification.
A look at the recent runway collections shows that leather products maintained their relevance in luxury designer offerings. “Leather garments and accessories differ in style and durability, for the sector it is a confirmation of its value, as is the fact that the big fashion brands continue to acquire Italian tanneries to ensure quality suppliers,” Bacchi said.
Innovation in coloring materials were a key part of the trend presentation from Italian designer and trend forecaster Antonella Bertagnin.
“Industry research is always in continuous evolution, toward innovative solutions that allow to obtain excellent results also in the dyeing field by reusing waste products that would otherwise be disposed of,” she said. “A virtuous example is the collaboration between two historic Italian companies, a textile firm and a historic rice mill, for a project that plans to reuse the boiling water of black rice to transform it into an interesting palette of natural dyes — ochre, Bordeaux, dark brown. New circular solutions obtained from recycled tires, which, in addition to giving us a cleaner world, allow us to extract a black pigment that can be used for packaging and inks suitable for contact with the skin,” Bertagnin explained to the crowd, adding that other new solutions include food dyes and fixing them with natural substances deriving from the silkworm. The applications in leather is in small production, which she said adds value and research content to the products, eventually applied on an industrial scale.
The flagship edition of the show, Lineapelle Milano, will run Feb. 21 to 23 at Fieramilano Rho in Milan.