It’s time for us to meet again

Sam Setter
Published:  11 February, 2022
Masked attendees at Lineapelle New York. Credit: Lineapelle

Sam Setter highlights some of the biggest moments as 2022 begins, and ponders how the return to trade shows will play out.

So, it’s 2022 and Covid is still keeping us locked up or partially locked up, but nevertheless there is an ample agenda of leather events on the calendar. In spite of what organisers proclaimed during the last two years of the huge successes of the virtual fairs, there seems to be a clear agreement that there are too many virtual events, seminars, promotions etc. and they are essentially boring and, in the end, totally unproductive.

I have not heard of one organiser announcing important sales during one of their virtual events in this industry. On the contrary, and unexpectedly, Lineapelle in September last year has given us a clear indication that, when accessible in terms of Covid restrictions, people are interested to visit an in-person fair.

Even if it was mainly a European event and with a limited number of exhibitors and visitors, Lineapelle was an indisputable success. Together with Simac Tanning Tech, which was a shadow of its usual attendance, these fairs also showed that Asian buyers are important, particularly for the machinery sector where their absence was clearly apparent.

Pakistan leather fair

The first international trade fair in 2022 was the Pakistan Mega Leather Show (PMLS), whereas the India International Leather Fair, which usually comes a few days later, was postponed from February and has been provisionally pencilled in for this May. As predicted in the current global climate, the PMLS attracted very few foreign visitors and was essentially a local fair. But it marked a great opportunity for the industry to talk and meet and was therefore useful.

Lineapelle celebrated the return of its twice-yearly physical event in New York in January and considered it very successful with fewer visitors than pre-Covid editions but, as with the Milan fair last September, the quality and business concluded exceeded the quantity of visitors. The next comprehensive international test for the wish and need to have in-person meetings will be Lineapelle taking place in Milan on February 22-24, where the organisers confirm that there will be almost a pre-Covid number of exhibitors and that the number of visitors will, hopefully, also largely exceed last September’s edition.

Travel restrictions to Europe are slowly but steadily relaxing and, even though certain vaccines such as Sinovax, Sputnik or Covaxin are not approved by the European Medicines Agency, they will be accepted to enter the European Union for fair attendance.

APLF Dubai

Perhaps the big surprise this year will be the upcoming APLF special edition in Dubai, where I think that there will be a relatively big participation, particularly from Asian countries, provided it will not be too difficult for them to return to their home countries after visiting the fair, as re-entering some Asian countries is not easy at the moment.

Travelling to Dubai on the contrary is relatively easy for most, African countries included, and the city has a superb exhibition centre, a host of hotels and excellent public transport. Not forgetting that Dubai as a venue is quite accessible for people coming from all continents and, at the time of writing, there seem to be very few restrictions, apart from full vaccinations and PCR tests.

As far as Hong Kong SAR is concerned, entry from abroad to visit fairs will not be easy until 2024, at least that is what the news coming from Hong Kong looks like, because the territory will be locked up for visitors “to extinguish Covid from the territory”. So APLF Dubai, if successful, may be see again in 2023 and then who knows?

Right now, it seems that the organisers have sold all available exhibition space so, at a first glance, the fair seems to be quite promising. I have heard that the access to the fair will be contactless and with careful checks of tests and vaccination certifications, the fair will be a safe place to visit.

Leather and the Amazon

On a different topic, after reading an article in Suston Magazine written by Jonathan Eidse. titled The Problem With (and the solution to) Amazon Leather, I have great difficulty understanding why the Textile Exchange makes judgements and offers comments and suggestions on the leather value chain in connection with the Amazon deforestation issue.

How can they state that the leather industry is “not doing enough to combat deforestation” when the Textile Exchange knows perfectly well that leather is a waste product of the beef industry and has nothing to do with the upstream decision-making process of the cattle industry?

Nicole Lambert is quoted in the article to have said “The STAND.earth report highlights a lack of traceability and transparency in the leather supply chain through to all levels of farming”. How does she know this? From social media, has she read this in reports without checking the truthfulness of the content of such reports? Or is she just making publicity for textiles by being critical of the leather industry? With some background research, she would have been able to understand that the leather industry is actively pursuing sustainability, including where the Amazon is concerned.

Would the Textile Exchange accept a similar negative intervention from the leather industry concerning the textile industries supply chain? This article shows that it was a huge mistake to interact with the Textile Exchange, in my view.

Papal audience

To end on a positive note, it was great for the Italian leather chemists’ association (AICC) and UNIC to be received in a private audience by Pope Francis. Above all, it was great that the Pope, just like Prince Charles, acknowledged that the leather industry, if sustainable and compliant, makes a great material for beautiful products. It was only sad to see that neither the visit, nor the observations of the Pope, were reported by the media outside of the leather industry.

Sam Setter

samsetter2020@gmail.com