Reporting a 2 percent increase in the number of visitors, Lineapelle organizers were satisfied with attendance at the Fieramilano Rho grounds, totaling nearly 20,000 visitors. The uptick was also attributed to Lineapelle being held in conjunction with footwear trade show Micam, leather goods show Mipel and Simac Tanning Tech.
This increase brought optimism, despite the drop in the number of exhibitors due to the absence of Chinese companies, due to the travel lockdown and the coronavirus emergency in China. At Lineapelle, 1,160 companies showcased their products, compared with 1,250 in February last year, 414 of which came from 42 countries, mainly in Europe.
Regardless of the coronavirus crisis, the Italian tanning industry has been going through a difficult period, registering a 7.3 percent drop in the value of production in 2019. Companies are reacting by embracing sustainability and by implementing a more synergic communication as a compact sector devoted to fashion industry.
Minimizing the environmental impact of the processes and improving communication about these steps is seen as key to maintain market share. “We focus on metal-free leathers and we have been working to reduce our environmental footprint for the last four years,” said Can Kaleli, manager at Turkey-based United Chemicals. “This is the first time we are at Lineapelle and we feature a full collection made of metal-free chemicals. The market is reacting well, we have already seen some results, according to what buyers are telling us.”
At United Chemicals there are 44 employees who work in a factory near Smyrna, but the company has also partnerships with tanneries between China and Europe. In particular, Kaleli confirmed the intention to boost the company’s presence in the Italian market. United Chemicals has already strong partnerships with Italian tanneries like Sograf, in the North of Italy.
On the same track was Tuscany-based Color-Dec. As clients are looking not only for eco-friendly and recycled materials but also for socially committed tanneries, “we are pursuing a social project with Tuscan cooperative Convoi, where people only work with natural or recycled textiles that we provide,” said export manager Michela Santini. “Together, we implemented textiles made of nettle or bamboo for example, or with leftovers from the wine and the tea industry.”
Conceria Superior, founded in Tuscany nearly 60 years ago and now led by ceo Stefano Caponi presented two main collections, as creative director Massimiliano Schiavini explained: The poetic, pastel shaded Spring Sorbet line and the bolder, Intense Vibration line. A more fashion-oriented collection made of calfskin and lambskin was offered in dégradé and pleated designs.
Regarding sustainability, Conceria Superior has been heavily invested in a project with Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa in the effort of reduce the use of chrome.
Antonio Quirici, president of Consorzio Cuoio di Toscana (the Tuscan cowhide consortium), underscored that the uncertainties about the health emergency will be affecting the entire economy, but accessories such as men’s and women’s shoes are not expected to lose market shares. He also touted how Tuscan tanneries can claim a long experience in sustainability, “thanks to vegetable-tanned leather processes. And we should always remember that tanneries are part of a circular economy as they use the leftovers of the food industry, being its subproduct: the problem is a wrong interpretation of facts, due to wrong communication and wrong information.”
Consorzio Cuoio di Toscana represents 90 percent of the European cowhide production and can guarantee full traceability of its leather. The seven companies, which are part of the association registered sales of between 160 and 170 million euros last year, “but we can expect a 5 percent drop this year because of the global economic situation,” added Quirici, who is also owner of Bonistalli & Stefanelli tannery, founded in the Fifties.
Gruppo Mastrotto, which has sales of 453.7 million euros, has recently obtained the BioBased certification by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which recognizes its hides up to 90 per cent renewable. At Lineapelle, Gruppo Mastrotto featured new organic leathers, which contain less than 0.3 per cent of metals, according to the Uni En 15987 legislation, and created with natural materials such as vegetable tannins and from renewable sources.
The sustainable path is the key to overcome a difficult economic situation for Veneto-based Conceria Tolio, as well. Owner Stefano Tolio explained how the company started to use sustainable processes in every step of its chain, from the reduction of water to the use of renewable energy. All the production is metal-free. The tannery has also committed itself to recycle and use regenerated materials. The development of new technologies has led to the partnership with different sectors, including companies from the private jet industry.