APLF - How it all began back in 1984

By Derek Dickins, Consultant to APLF
Published:  18 December, 2013

The Origins of the Hong Kong Leather Fair

In June 1983, an Australian leather trader named Peter Grant came to Hong Kong at the behest of the Australian Hides and Skins Association who had just been exhibiting at a trade fair in Singapore. He went to the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce and had a meeting with the director Jimmy, later to become Sir James McGregor as a member of Governor Chris Patten’s Executive Council.

Grant’s mission was to convince Hong Kong to organize an international leather exhibition. Apparently, the industry were not happy with the event in Singapore

Jimmy, the ever obliging diplomat and devoted Hong Kong “belonger” having left his native Scotland to join the Hong Kong  government during the revolutionary years in China, put his thinking cap on and sent the Australian to meet Derek Dickins, Managing Director of the Hong Kong Trade Fair Group that was developing international trade fairs in Asia. To convince a rather skeptical Derek Dickins, Peter Grant suggested the latter visit the annual international leather fair Semaine International du Cuir, held every year in Paris. The visit left him in no doubt about launching such an event in Hong Kong. 

However until the early ‘80’s Hong Kong had no exhibition industry although one or two adventurous companies such as the UK-based Seatrade Publications Ltd, later to become the Hong Kong Trade Fair Group, proceeded to organize trade fairs in Kowloon Park and later in the car parks in the newly built Great Eagle and the small exhibition halls in the new China Resources Building in Wanchai. There, the first Hong Kong Leather Fair was launched in 1984 and completely sold out following the wise guidance and support  of the late William (Bill) Carey, the then President of the International Council of Leather Traders Association .

The rest is history. As the leather industry made its inexorable move into Asia so the Hong Kong Leather Fair grew year by year so that when the original Hong Kong Trade & Exhibition Centre (HKTEC) opened in 1989 following many years of lobbying by Jimmy McGregor, the Hong Kong Leather Fair was held there completely occupying the new centre.

The Official Opening of the first Hong Kong International Leather fair on May 30th 1984. Left to right – Derek Dickins, Managing Director of the Hong Kong Trade Fair Group and Founder of APLF; Bill Carey, President of The International Hides, Skins & Leather Association; Jack Tang cutting the ribbon, a well-known local business man, Anthony Fan representing the Hong Kong Leather Association and Jimmy McGregor (later Sir James) Director of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce.

Formation of APLF Ltd

In the ‘80’s the largest and arguably the most important leather fair in the world was the Semaine International du Cuir held every September in Paris. It was a logical business move when in 1994, the organizers of the Paris fair joined forces with the Hong Kong Leather Fair to form a joint venture and the Asia Pacific Leather Fair (APLF Ltd) was formed.

Today although much of the manufacturing has moved to the mainland and the All China Leather Exhibition, a joint venture between APLF Ltd and the Chinese Leather Industry Association, is becoming more important year by year, Hong Kong remains the hub of the leather business in Asia. Today after 30 years (in 2014) APLF is now named Materials Manufacturing & Technology and Fashion Access for the relevant accessories and finished leather goods – both offshoots of the original Hong Kong Leather Fair.