Martin Ricker

Content Director

International Leather Maker

In 2014, I wrote a short news story for ILM about the closure of a bar in the Wanchai district of Hong Kong called Joe Bananas. It was never written to be a serious story but more of a reflection on a place that resonates among many people who regularly attend the APLF trade fair. It’s a place where you go after dinner during the three to four days of the fair to network and have a good time. Not that any of the locals who live in Hong Kong would go anywhere near the place!

I wrote the short story when social media platforms such as Linkedin were growing and, to my surprise, it was reshared and commented on more times than anything I had ever written up to that point. Most of the comments were highly amusing but were also tinged with a degree of sadness that the bar was closing.

For those that are unfamiliar, Joe Bananas had become a social institution for visitors coming to the APLF. I recall one U.S.-based hide trader commenting: “We call Joe Bananas our Southeast Asia office.” The bar stays open until daylight the next day and I’ve met so many interesting people and contacts on the pavement outside over the years.

Today, I am pleased to say that Joe Bananas is very much open and occupies the same place in Wanchai that it has always done. Hong Kong has lots of great bars and nightlife and it has never been clear to me why this particular place has gained an almost cult-like status for post-fair drinking and networking during the APLF. I would bet that outside of the leather industry it does not have the same recognition. The location is perfect – close to the exhibition centre, hotels and the nightlife of Hong Kong. But, to be honest, there are many places which are nicer and, dare I say it, are less sleazy, but this is the place where everyone seems to head for.

Rosecoloured spectacles

The 2024 edition of the APLF will mark its 40th edition and will be taking place from March 19-21 at the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Centre (HKCEC). This will be the first edition of the show taking place in Hong Kong since 2019 and many people in the industry will be looking forward to attending once more to see what, if any, changes have taken place since the Covid pandemic.

Since 2019, a lot has changed both within the global tanning industry as well as geopolitically. Some of the older faces will no longer be there and the leather element of the show will be in a different part of the HKCEC (hall 3 instead of hall 1). It will be interesting to see what a difference this may have.

The timing of the event comes at a difficult time for the leather sector with global market conditions remaining challenging. For those, like me, who have attended many APLFs over the years and have lots of great memories, it will be interesting to see if it’s as good as we remember or whether that’s just nostalgia, looking back at another era that is no longer there. The good news is that the show has retained many of its side meetings and industry events alongside the exhibition and it looks set to be a busy and intense few days.

People come to the APLF, or any trade fair, first and foremost to do business, but it’s a lot nicer to do business in a place that is welcoming, safe and easy to visit. For the visitors going to Hong Kong, it has always been a brilliant and open place to visit from all over the world and I hope that is still the case. I also look forward to seeing old industry friends and new ones at the show this year and catching up on the curb side or at the bar late one evening at Joe Bananas.