Over the last few years, a generational change has started within the leather industry. It is greater than usual, since the Boomer generation moving into retirement is a large one. Given that Generation X which follows is small by comparison, the handover will create a few unexpected changes; hopefully reflected with an increase of female, diverse and youthful staff.

For those travelling to Dubai for the first APLF since 2019, these changes will be made more apparent by additional personnel developments created through the pandemic itself.  As individuals and companies have rethought their next steps, Perrine Ardouin has decided to move on, leaving Hong Kong, and Michael Duck will likely be present in a new, more senior role. As an industry, we owe them both, and others like Ida Kwok who has also moved on, a huge debt for maintaining APLF as the world’s most important single meeting place for leather over nearly four decades.

Along with members of their team like Chi On Kwok, who will still be visible in the new team, I have to add my own personal thanks. Having met them as an exhibitor and then as friends, it did not take long to see that their approach was far wider than providing an exhibition. They were a partner that was involved with the wider leather industry, always supporting it as the business environment changed and occasionally nudging it in new directions when encouragement to advance was required.

Along with Derek Dickens, who set up the very first APLF event, it was Michael and Perrine who recognised the need for an organisation like Leather Naturally to fill the global education and communications gap as alternative materials and passionate animal rights campaigners grew their efforts to displace leather using inaccurate or false science. As early as 2008, it was their dedication that led directly to Leather Naturally and with it a leather industry that now understands the challenges and opportunities we have ahead across the board.

Although Leather Naturally worked in a semi-organised way for a few years, it had its official launch exactly 10 years ago this month at APLF Hong Kong. Although I am no longer closely involved, I can see the good it has done and continues to do to fill a gap while working well with other industry bodies.

For about half of the last decade, a key person has been Egbert Dikkers. With the support of Royal Smit and Zoon, he has so expertly created the current organisational structure and, with the support of other industry volunteers, has driven Leather Naturally forward. He has also announced that it is time for a career change and so will be moving on in a month or two. We thank him sincerely and wish him well. A perfect moment for new faces to support and drive this organisation to new heights.

As for APLF, we welcome Grace Lee as the show director. We knew her as a project manager at APLF a few years ago, after which she has held a number of senior positions within the parent organisation. She inherits a great team of passionate people and I am confident that she will keep the fair as the lead event where tanners meet to interpret ongoing changes.

We thought SARS was exceptional, but then we had the Financial Crisis, followed by Covid-19, which has closed most of Shanghai down as this is written, and now we have war engulfing Europe with many others being drawn in as it impacts prices, materials and supply chains. So, we need a platform that allows our leaders to come together in different ways over a few days to discuss and think these developments through. APLF has always been the best.

APLF became the natural successor to the Semaine du Cuir in Paris when Europe’s role diminished and that of all parts of Asia increased. I have been in Paris or Hong Kong almost without a break since 1971. I have only missed two APLF’s since they began in the curious Hong Kong Car Park setting, and I am now part of the generational change and will not come to Dubai but instead watch from a distance. Deliberate with care, your industry depends on it.

Mike Redwood


Follow Dr Mike Redwood on Twitter: @michaelredwood

Publication and Copyright of “Redwood Comment” remains with the publishers of International Leather Maker. The articles cannot be reproduced in any way without the express permission of the publisher.