MILAN — Organizers of Lineapelle said the leather materials sector, which includes 50,000 companies and is worth about $150 billion in revenue, closed 2015 with a decrease due to a consumer spending slowdown in key markets such as China and Russia and the rising cost of hides.
“People aren’t eating red meat and that means that the supply of raw materials that we need is more scarce,” said Salvatore Mercogliano, chief executive officer of the Lineapelle fair.
In 2015, the availability of raw leather fell 3 percent.
The three-day trade show of spring 2017 tannery leather trends hosted the collections of 750 Italian exhibitors and 405 from abroad. The overall number of exhibitors rose 6 percent and the number of foreign exhibitors increased 11 percent compared to last February.
“Making forecasts is really difficult for us, but we are lucky to be in the high end of the market,” Mercogliano said at the fair, which was held at Milan’s Rho Fiera venue for three days through Feb. 25.
With Lineapelle editions in cities such as London, Seoul and New York, Italy’s leaders are determined to raise the fair’s international profile.
“The government is very close to the leather industry. In terms of leather goods, we are the strongest in the world and we represent 41 percent of the entire European turnover from the sector,” said Riccardo Monti, president of the Italian Trade Commission, a Lineapelle sponsor.
According to figures released in Lineapelle’s “market trends,” sales of medium cowhide slid 2 percent, while sales of calf hides fell 7 percent and sheep and goat products slid 8 and 7 percent, respectively.
“The general decline in demand is not expected to end in the short term, although a small segment of operators are hopeful for the first half of 2016,” Lineapelle said.
Castelfranco di Sotto-based Italian tannery Sciarada, which has been known since 1977 for its suede culled from cow and calf for upscale shoes, clothes and small leather accessories, reported flat sales in 2015. The company sources calfskins for its high-end collections from Holland, France and Croatia and its cowhide for more accessible lines from Brazil and Uruguay.
“For the most part, things have been stable,” said Sciarada ceo Simone Castellani.
This season, Italy’s Chamber of Fashion partnered with Lineapelle to support young designers and to enhance environmental, social and ethical responsibility of the companies. The collaboration with the chamber will be realized through a series of initiatives that will take place throughout 2016 during fashion week and the Milano Moda Graduate exhibition.
Technology in finished hides was highlighted at leather manufacturers dedicated to sustainability and innovation.
Smart Materials by Okinawa presented its washable and sustainable certified products that include denim leather, a Microki line of eco-leather and its Jacroki line produced from paper mills.
Okinawa is a partner of CLASS, an international platform that supports and promotes sustainable and environmentally friendly materials.
“We have dedicated the last five years to technology,” said Okinawa ceo Michele Ruffin. “We are still a start-up, but we are rich in innovation and products. We are constantly looking for new partners to sponsor our growth.”
The Antiba Italian tannery has produced and supplied ides for top fashion houses from its base, also in Santa Croce Sull’Arno, since 1987. Its most requested product has been its Sugar Lux collection — a soft, flexible goat in different weights and finishes such as shiny, metallic, matte, rubber and laminated — used for its core business of handbags, shoes and small leather accessories.
This season, the company’s joint owner Graziano Balducci said that the company concentrated on updating its collection of sheep skins for 2017.
Antiba also unfurled skins from its new company, Vertigo, which the company hopes to propel its image in the tech sector. Vertigo is an arm of Antiba, Balducci explained, that puts innovation first, by crafting calf hides enhanced with tech finishes.
“The success of leather goods, and apparel and accessories, is due to Italy’s competitiveness, and that is mainly due to the fact that in its pipeline, Italy makes everything — fibers, clothes, components and hides,” said Armando Branchini, vice chairman of Fondazione Altagamma.