It may be small but the French leather exhibition, Le Cuir A Paris, Porte de Versailles, April 15-16, attracts the big names when it comes to buying high fashion and quality leather. Tanners, mostly from Europe, exhibited their latest leathers collections for the spring/summer 2005 season.

According to the organisers, the SIC Group, there were 139 exhibitors, mostly from France, Italy and Spain. ‘We want to maintain a small yet select group of exhibitors for our spring edition showing the highest quality and most fashionable leathers’, Erica Caron, show administration manager, SIC Group told Leather International.

The list of visitors attending the show was impressive, with representatives from brands such as Tods, LVMH, Chanel, Lanvin, Jitrois, Sequoia bags, Hermès, Jean Paul Gaultier, Loewe and Longchamp all showing up.

The variety and quality of the leather on display was also impressive with a vast array of colours, designs and effects on show. Approximately 70% of the buyers and designers were from Europe with the remainder from the USA, Eastern Europe and Asia.

Fifteen tanneries attended the spring edition of Le Cuir A Paris under the umbrella of the Fédération Française de la Tannerie-Mégisserie, the French tanners’ association. ‘It is good for us to have a high quality leather event in the heart of Paris that attracts many of the high quality fashion houses’, said Ursula Mandenoff, export manager.

‘French tanners can no longer compete with producers in China, India and elsewhere when it comes to volume. They produce in niche markets. Our members continue to produce leather with higher levels of innovation, creation and quality to keep in business’, she added.

There are 75 tanneries in France producing mainly footwear, leathergoods and garment leather. Last year was a difficult year for the sector as turnover fell by a massive 20%.

However, Mandenoff was keen to point out that the French had not suffered alone as the industry across the whole of western Europe, particularly in Italy and Spain, had also experienced an economic downturn.

Approximately 600 samples were on display at the trend selection area at the show. The trends were broken down into four themes.

There were a further two selection areas showing the high tech leathers from exhibitors at the show and leathers featuring the ‘star colour’ for spring/summer 2005 which were a blend of pinky red shades.

In addition to the trend area, there were four colour themes on display. Many of colours were linked with the trend selection area.

Trend themes

Building: Sporty colours using strong colours such as bordeaux, metallic chrome, yellow, oranges, browns and blues. Heavily lacquered finishes and lots of geometric patterns such as stripes. Perforated leather for sports clothing was also featured Fever: Return of the 70s’ disco look with flashy reds and metallics mixed with soft silky leathers. Also featured were woven leather and varnished enamel finishes. Lots of copper, gold and wild prints

Jour de Fête: Fresh colours with printed flowers. Lots of stripes, dots and flowers printed on leather. Strong yellow and green linked with the candies trend colours

Arty: Prints, cartoons and mosaic patterns on the leather. Linked with earl grey colours. Lots of pearlised effects, tight and embossed grain patterns. A mixture of leather and lace

Colour themes

Vitiamines: Strong ethnic colours in reds and browns. Mixed with sky blue, shocking pink and colours between orange and pink. Copper and gold metallics

Earl Grey: Lots of grey and skin tones. Mixture of hot and cold colours including a new khaki shade

Pimentos: Sophisticated primary colours described as ‘sporty chic’. Metallics and fluorescent colours

Candies: Pastel shades mixed with white. Metallic ‘nail varnish’ shades. Lots of bright green, yellow and blue

According to the figures released by the fair organisers, there were 139 exhibitors representing tanners, accessory and components, raw materials and the media.

Around 60% were tanners from a number of European countries including France, Italy, Spain, Finland as well as Egypt, Tunisia, Pakistan and South Korea. Most were from France and Italy.

Costil TDF

One of the largest tanning companies in France are the calfskin specialists Costil Tanneries de France. They produce modern and traditional quality box calf leathers for range of famous marks such as Ferragamo, Hermès, Church’s Shoes and Prada.

The tannery, located near the city of Strasbourg, processes 500,000 sq ft of leather from wet-blue or vegetable tanned stock per month using French calf and bovine raw hides. Around half is exported to countries such as the USA, Italy, UK and Asia.

‘The last twelve months have been quite difficult, especially in European markets’, says Georges Duran, commercial director France. ‘In order to produce the highest quality we have been working hard to improve our raw material quality, and I think this has helped us through the difficult times. This show has been good and the market does appear to have improved slightly’, he said.

Along with the French sister tannery, Tanneries Roux, Costil are owned by group president, Jean-Claude Ricomard and they employ a total of 120 people.

TCIM Roggwiller

Among the 600 leathers samples on display in the trend selection area at the show were a number of exotic leather items. One of the best-known names in exotics are the French group TCIM Roggwiller. They have three tanneries in Le Mans, France, Turin, Italy and Lafayette, Louisiana in the USA producing every conceivable exotic leather from farmed alligator, crocodile and ostrich to snake, lizard, shark, rays and Nile perch.

‘Ours is a very niche business and requires a very detailed hands-on approach’, says Daniel Roggwiller, president. ‘The fashion houses demand constant creativity and new items. This year, we have highly coloured glossy alligators, metallics and even a spotted dalmatian look on our leathers.’

Among the leathers on display from the family-controlled business were hand painted python leather, pearlised and in bold colours of blue, yellow and red. Luxury goods retailer, Hermès, are said to have a stake in the concern.

Ahlskog Oy

Exhibiting at the spring edition of the show for the first time were Finnish tanners, Ahlskog, who are located 500km north of the capital Helsinki in the town of Kronoby. ‘We have a few new contacts from France, Belgium and Türkiye at the show so far, although it is a little quieter than we had hoped’, Stefan Hagström, sales manager said.

‘The show in Paris is a good place for us to meet the top buyers and designers and we find that the compact size makes it easier for our existing customers to find us. Our suede reindeer leathers have been interesting to a number of visitors to our stand’, he added.

Ahlskog process around 100,000 sq ft of high quality wool and hair sheep, and reindeer garment leather per month. They count the Italian brand Gucci among their customers and regularly attend the September edition of Le Cuir A Paris. The family controlled tannery has been in business since the 1920s and Ahlskog currently employ 31 people.

Mégisserie Seragor

For most people, French leather represents two distinct types, box calf and soft ‘plongé’ sheepskin leather. Seragor are one of the few survivors of the once great tanning region based around the town of Graulhet in south western France.

The small family-owned business produces high quality soft sheepskin garment leather in range of fashion finishes. ‘Some of the leathers are finished by hand to give them the correct look’, Béatrice Desprats, managing director and owner, told Leather International. ‘Our stand has been full since we arrived and the visitors seem particularly interested in our white leathers, especially the chrome-free items.’

Seragor produce a range of niche garment leathers using French domestic sheepskins.

Next event

The next edition of the fair is due to take place at the same venue September 13-15, 2004 featuring leather collections for the autumn/winter 2005/06 season.