MILAN — The connection between technology and nature was the main theme at the three-day international leather trade show Lineapelle, held at the Milano-Rho fairgrounds, which closed on Feb. 22 and presented trends for summer 2020.

Lineapelle’s 1,255 exhibitors attracted more than 20,000 international visitors, up 1 percent compared with February last year. In particular, the number of Russian visitors was up 29 percent and that of buyers from Japan grew 19 percent.

The theme evolved in the “Co-natural” issue — fashion creativity deeply linked to nature.

Companies showing at Lineapelle were focused on blending efficiency with a sustainable supply chain of raw materials. The Italian Veg-Tanned Leather Consortium, for example, includes small, family-run Tuscan tanneries whose production process is based on tannins extracted from tree barks and plants only — no chrome or other metals added. The Consortium is trying to promote vegetable-tanned leather, which is a typical Tuscan product, and to communicate not only its high quality but also its high potential for fashion industry.

La Bretagna is one of these companies. Founded 58 years ago near Pisa by Giovanni Testi and run by his sons Paolo and Simone, the company produces vegetable-tanned leather for both accessories and interior decoration industry. “We sell our products to fashion houses all over the world, but we are also appreciated by architects and designers,” said Paolo Testi. “Our leather has been chosen to lay floors, walls and furniture in hotels and showrooms like Tiffany in New York and the Four Seasons Hotel in Tokyo.” Italy, the U.S., South Korea and Japan are La Bretagna’s main markets. At Lineapelle, the Testi’s family featured Idrokansas, a new vegetable-tanned leather which is water-repellent, to show the potential of the product.

La Perla Azzurra was another member of the Consortium at Lineapelle. President Massimo Boldrini said, “It’s not easy to keep working on such a niche product, as it needs a lot of economic investments in production and small companies are not able to save enough money for advertising — and this is why we gathered in a Consortium 25 years ago.” The tannery has seen an increase in South Korean and Japan clients, balancing off a slowdown with European buyers.

More than a century old, Manifattura di Domodossola is run by sisters Giulia and Silvia Polli, the fourth generation of the founding family, and it comprises two branches and brands: Oxilla, dedicated to design and materials for interior and luxury furnishing (from yachts to aircraft and hotels), and Athison, an accessories collection and all vegetable-tanned. “Over the past year, we have developed a yarn derived from recycled plastic bottles and used recycled leather, too,” said Silvia Polli. “We aim to sell nontoxic products only.” Exports represent 50 percent of the firm’s turnover and the main markets are Europe (Spain, Greece and France in particular) and Japan, while the U.S. is an important destination for the semi-finished products.

At Lineapelle, Manifattura di Domodossola presented the new edition of “Intreccincantiere,” a contest dedicated to young designers. Around 100 young talents from international design schools have used the company’s famous braidings to create dresses, bags and bijoux.

In the Accessories pavilion of the trade show Minardi Piume, a 100-year-old company in Emilia Romagna, was represented by its fashion division, Fancy Feathers, launched in 2017. Its head of department Francesco Piva said “it’s still a small division, but we have already achieved results, starting last year with Giambattista Valli, who used our feathers on his runway.” Ostrich feathers are the company’s best-selling items. “It is very important for us to underscore that we only choose suppliers, who share our same care for animals, remembering that feathers are by-products of the food industry. We therefore turn this waste into a re-evaluation process,” Piva said.

Alessandro Iliprandi, owner of Bonaudo Milano 1923, was a little bit critical. He underscored that sustainability is an important issue today, but it’s a long process for established companies. What the company is trying to achieve as a tannery, which is now based in Milan but has other production plants in the North of the country, is to renew the processes one by one by teaming up with engineers: 100 percent of the water used in the processes is purified onsite, for instance, and the consumption of electricity, water and energy has been dramatically reduced in the last years. On the other hand, Bonaudo Milano is investing in a “measurable traceability,” explained Iliprandi. The firm produces leather for high-end clothing and accessories but also for sportswear.

With sales of 450 million euros, Gruppo Mastrotto, based near Vicenza, works with the fashion market but also with the automotive industry. The firm featured two new lines dedicated to shoes and leather goods: Peggy Colors and Shimmer Colors. The former includes 45 new colors, while the latter stands out for its laminated leather in 18 new hues.

Marche, Italy-based Finproject, a leader in the production of footwear soles, featured its Xl Extralight trademarked material. One of the new products presented is XI Extralight Sustainable+, where 51 percent of the material comes from reused industrial waste and scrap. “The main feature of Xl Extralight is being three times lighter than other materials with the same properties, besides being water-resistant,” said marketing and communication assistant Stefano Silenzi. “And today it is not used in the footwear industry only, but also in the accessories and furniture industry.” Products like the “O bag,” Ipad covers and the famous “Bounce” chair by Gufram, designed by Karim Rashid, are made of Xl Extralight.

Another Marche company, Ingom, is banking on very light rubber soles. Its Gravit.x compact rubber made of non-toxic materials is designed to be protected by U.V. rays and resistant to ozone corrosion. With the new line Be.Nat., the company took research and development a step further: “We studied a new material which is made of recycled and waste products, to follow the emerging trend,” said Luca Ceroni, owner of Ingom. “And as we want it to be appealing to the fashion industry and a young target, we have created a collection made of fluo or very light colors.”

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