The Fair was founded to give the leather industry access to the growing Asian Market, especially China. Before then the industry trade fair business had busied itself with jollies in Paris and Bologna; even London for those with very long memories.

But APLF set about transforming all that. Not that the older fairs were unimportant. Quite the reverse. The industry required these regular meeting points. Paris attracted all the machinery and chemical companies so a lot could be achieved in staying current and setting an agenda for the year ahead. Italy was much more about trends and developments with leather; adding artistry to technology and helping tanners understand how to place the right raw material, of all qualities, into the best suited end uses.


On the other hand APLF was to be about industry reconfiguration, and in many ways remains so today. This is where top industry executives gather to exchange views and build their organisational overview. With China changing so rapidly towards a country of middle class consumers and new countries of production expanding all over Asia, the APLF in Hong Kong fits perfectly as a stop before and after trips around the region. The fact is that thirty years on every single international organisation from the International Council of Tanners through to the Leather Working Group hold major meetings in and around the fair. The relevance of APLF at the epicentre of a fast evolving, restructuring leather industry remains absolutely clear.

Given the huge numbers of trade fairs that take place around the world this is quite remarkable. For some industry executives this has become almost a merry-go-round, especially if they work in sectors which require attendance at the world’s top footwear, outdoor and sports shows as well. The first quarter of the year can be almost continual travel.

Yet the achievement of which Derek Dickens can be so proud is that APLF Hong Kong quickly became and still remains the top global venue. This point is strongly made this year by Brazil being this year’s focal country and taking the entire first day of the Leather Club to move forward the industry dialogue. Both Brazil and Turkey have transformed the way they want to think about leather and how they will communicate their new directions. Both make a major play of demonstrating this at the Hong Kong Fair.

For what so many consider a traditional slow moving industry the APLF continues to highlight that in reality leather making and marketing is a dynamic and innovative sector that needs great trade shows as an integral part of its evolution. Without question Dr. Derek Dickens fully deserved his Honorary Doctorate. 

Mike Redwood

Follow Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood