Paris in September

The Redwood blog
Published:  24 September, 2013
Mike Redwood

Paris in September has always been a ritual. But the Paris in September that characterised the leather industry of the 20th century is long gone. Remember the days of excess with huge stands, and even more expensive parties of senior executives. Port de Versailles was the autumn break in Paris fair a rich and wealthy industry. 

When I started in the industry my first British employer would fly me round the world First Class and my Italian ones put my wife and I into five-star hotels in Paris so that we could fully enjoy the industry parties in the American, British and Irish Embassies. Not surprising then that this all collapsed so suddenly amid a new reality. The loss of Paris from the leather trade calendar was really a long time coming.

Yet France's connection to leather never went away, just its 19th century role as one centre, along with Amsterdam and London, of the trading aspect. It was recognised that as mass production moved away, as it needed to do, those who remained in Europe would become more specialised, more skilled and much more connected to the knowledge society. And so it has been proven, with one added element we had not considered - craftsmanship. And add to traditional craftsmanship design and material quality that gives it such lasting durability and value.

I remember when I first met Marc Folachier when he was CEO of CTC. He told me that when he accepted the job of CEO it was on the basis of accepting the organisation's international future. At the same time Marc recognised that the reduced French tanning industry was tightly linked into the luxury goods industry. What we see today is a French industry where both tanners and leather goods businesses create a cohesive package, albeit a mightily asymmetrical one, and the logical conclusion is to have a trade fair that complements this.

That is easily said now, but when Cuir a Paris started hesitatingly so many years ago there must have been a strong element of visionary thinking behind it. Many tanners now see luxury as the salvation of the leather industry, but back then the rapid evolution of the luxury trade was not foreseen. I do not accept the "luxury saviour" view of the leather industry but luxury is a perfect positioning for the French industry given its special mix of core competences and overall positioning. The strong growth of the fair and positive thinking coming from all aspects of the French leather industry is highly welcome.

A trade fair can play a leading part in the national industry development

What becomes fascinating is the way that a trade fair, well thought through, can play a leading part in the national industry development. The new positioning and branding of the show is good, as has been its decisive move into new media. More than that the physical set up was what stood out this September. The expanded Trend area and the Incube forum are indications of a dynamic that make the show more valuable to the designers and developers that exhibitors hope to meet walking the corridors. The strong involvement of exotics and fur reminds the trade what the absolute luxury business (there is more than one type of luxury these days) is all about.

A significant part of the success of Cuir a Paris lies in this association with luxury, and with it there exists a level of exclusivity, which the fair has carefully nurtured. The question for the show now becomes how to manage growth without becoming commoditised as has been the trend in so much of the leather industry.

A curious thing, managing growth in the European leather industry. When did you last hear that question asked?

Mike Redwood

mike@mikeredwood.com


About the author

It is now two years since Mike Redwood was asked to become the spokesperson for Leather Naturally! This voluntary role fits well with Mike’s long held belief that the leather industry needs to become much more consumer oriented. Redwood has a portfolio of jobs. He works with the newly formed Institute for Creative Leather Technologies at the University of Northampton and teaches marketing at the University of Bath. Before transferring into marketing Mike trained and worked in the leather industry as a technician and tannery manager in the UK, Italy and Latin America with a number of major businesses such as Barrow Hepburn, ADOC, Pittards, Gruppo David, FootJoy and ECCO.