So, it was with a sense of relief that the 100th Lineapelle was able to put masks and passes behind it and get down to the business of extracting meaning from the many current challenges. That it was badly needed was apparent from the large number of parallel events held alongside such as the IULTCS EuroCongress and the LWG Meeting.
Lineapelle noted a significant lowering of the average age of visitors, confirming the generational shift that was accelerating through the pandemic, and an impression that the overlapping generations had handled Covid well leaving a motivated and competent team to take the reins throughout the leather industry.
Apart from succession matters in family-owned tanneries some of this shift is a result of the dramatically improved industry outreach. Lineapelle runs many joint projects and short international events. I have enjoyed the trend sessions in London which are always packed with students and young people. The design competitions from The Leather and Hide Council of America, and APLF Design-a-Bag along with the general work of Leather Naturally is very much about engaging with a younger audience.
Paris and Hong Kong
Before Lineapelle, the dominant fair was always in Paris, with Italy seen as the location for advanced trends and designs, especially in footwear. APLF Hong Kong was to take on the “global” mantle as Asia opened up in the late 1980s and as China became dominant in raw material imports and production of footwear and other leather items. It was helped by Hong Kong being such a great city, with easy international access.
The ending of hotel quarantine in Hong Kong must give APLF hope of a full return but with the opening of China still a long way off and all the other geopolitical issues this will inevitably be to something a little different. Hopefully the long isolation has not closed too many of their best restaurants and the new laws will not impinge on travellers.
Lineapelle has shown that the industry cannot wait and that a positive dynamic of creativity is pervading the industry with product launches and events at the Fair, along with some outstanding presentations at the IULTCS Conference. Perhaps the new generation has arrived at a moment when the decks have been cleared.
All the laborious studies to fully comprehend the sustainability of leather and the wider areas of corporate social responsibility, incorporating detailed LCAs, annual comprehensive environmental statements, the circular economy with the true value of repair and longevity have all added to giving the industry an extremely positive foundation on which to go forward. As long as tanners behave honestly and transparently and process leather responsibly, they can be confident in the true value of leather.
Our positive thoughts for the European leather trade were already working out before the Pandemic with the French leather industry steadily growing market share at the expense if an increasingly costly China, the Portuguese leather footwear industry accelerating and some Italian garment makers repatriating their production to ensure brand authenticity.
Lineapelle has demonstrated that despite the volatile times the leather industry in Europe is invigorated, full of real and promised innovation and much more open to collaboration and the creativity that will go with it. And the wide international presence in Milan showed there is every reason to show that the rest of the global leather industry is part of it.
Follow Dr Mike Redwood on Twitter: @michaelredwood
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