The other value of this upmarket preselection is that it is the first in the season and comes just as Europe’s tanners have returned to work after the summer vacations. Regular visitors include Christian Dior, Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Jitrois, Hermès, Chanel, Swarovski, Baccarat….

According to Erica Caron, SIC Group show administration, often these top companies send teams of 4-5 people each time: the buyers (who are realistic about timing and money) come with the stylists (who feel the material and imagine what they could do with it) and the model-makers (who will tell the stylist if the idea is feasible). There may well also be those who have newly-graduated from fashion school and have just entered the company. Different buyers for accessories and for bags etc may attend from the same company.

If influential designers and brand names regularly use leather in their collections, this will inevitably filter down to the high street. And designs which appeal to fashion conscious 17-25 year olds would bring the most benefit to the industry. Even if many of the designs are made up in Asia, it will also encourage leather business in Europe which is still the world’s fashion centre.

One agent for continental nappa and doubleface said he couldn’t sell nappa in the UK because British women simply do not look good in nappa clothing. Doubleface, on the other hand, is easier to sell in England because, in addition to garments, it has a much wider application for accessories. Warmer winters, generally, have done little to encourage doubleface sales.

La Doma, Spanish doubleface specialists who also make nappa, said they have to constantly look for new ways of finishing leather in order to attract the attention of the designers. At Le Cuir A Paris, they had a number of fresh lines which incorporated the use of textiles. A lightweight opaque fabric bonded to the flesh side of a wool-on lambskin gives added textural or subtle patterned appeal, whereas denim and distressed look textile pieces applied to a smooth leather give an interesting leather which could be used on either side with the reverse providing a pleasing lining to the garment. And it did not end there. La Doma also featured a garment in crust nappa which is designed for dyeing at home in a domestic washing machine. The simplicity of dying clothes in the washing machine makes it possible for consumers to select almost any shade they want.

The Italian tanners did not disappoint either, when it comes to going all out to inspire the designer. Their leathers were widely featured in the trend area and names to look out for include Conceria Vicar with their ostrich-look on the flesh side of doubleface lambskins. Moving on from previous seasons when leathers were printed with newsprint designs, the latest variation, from Carstens Suede and Leathers and Conceria Priante, evoked worn pieces of newspaper and magazines which were stuck to the leather, giving the effect of ageing billboards which had been battered by the elements.

The Brazilian tanners were back in force this year with their own pavilion. As a country, they are major hide producers but tanned exports so far are mainly wet-blue. But watch out. Their time will come. Nature Touch, for example, were showing both frog skins and cow stomach leather. The frog skins are trimmed into rectangles and stuck together to form sheets of material. The stomach leathers offer an exotic-looking leather for use in accessories and footwear.

Another Brazilian company, Ecomar, are fishskin specialists. Unfortunately, they fell foul of the customs on this, their first, attempt to show in Paris so had only a very small array of samples to exhibit. Ecomar are a fishing company who found themselves throwing 30 tons/month of fishskins in the rivers. They approached the tanning industry for advice and began by selling the fishskins and then set up their own tanning company, Couromar.

Claytons of Chesterfield were once more present at the show with their line in leather floor tiles. These receive steady and continuing interest but their belt leathers were the success of the show this time which they decided to show prominently. The most popular colours were black and dark red and demand currently seems to be for new belts which look old.

One somewhat surprising exhibit was a Chrysler car with Connolly leather interior. The Chrysler Crossfire Roadster was ultimately destined for display at the upcoming Le Salon de l’Automobile, also at the Porte de Versailles, but when the company asked if they could also show at Le Cuir A Paris, SIC were happy to comply.

Conscious of the importance of promoting creativity and encouraging new designers, Ecole La Cambre – Mode of Belgium participated. French tanners Lauret, Dupire and Bodin Joyeux, together with the organisers of Le Cuir A Paris, sponsored a space where seven students of the school were able to present their garments in leather and fur.

In the Designers Area, fantasy jewellery by Ana Maia and Rosa Piatti from the Brazilian Atelier Viver de Arte were featured. They made several contacts and met up with shop-owners who were interested in importing their products. There were also armchairs and vases in carved leather from the French designer Marion Courtillé as well as the casual sportswear line of leather clothing by Dutch designer Mars Rikje.

Also at this event, the fish art of Jean-Paul Berton was prominently displayed in the area set aside for VIPs and the press. On the walls, the pieces were presented framed in the manner of paintings but, on his stand in the general exhibition area, there were a variety of pots, sculptures and other items. In fact, Berton will cover most things with fishskin given the opportunity and has even been known to cover an entire car. The fishskins are not tanned, but preserved and glued.

There were other leather garment exhibits at this edition and the organisers say that this worked very well and two of the companies have signed up for both sessions next year!

So it looks as if the show might broaden its appeal beyond the core purpose of presenting leathers and components in advance of the main shows.

The organisers were delighted to welcome visitors from as far afield as Brazil. Some of them came to Maison & Objet and stayed on to attend Le Cuir A Paris.

Erica Caron met up with one of the biggest shoe manufacturers in Brazil (Freeway) who was accompanied by two stylists. ‘He told me that they really need to get in the fashion sector and that Le Cuir A Paris offered them the opportunity to see what will make fashion and produce the right products in time.’

There were thirty new exhibitors at the show, nine of them from Italy, although the overall size remains stable. From the leather sector, four came from the United States: American Tanning & Leather Co, Edsim Leather, Hersheys International and Thiele Tanning; two each from Brazil, Germany, Spain and one each from China, Pakistan and the UK.


Twice a year, the Bureau de Style provide the SIC Group with the projected trends in colour and texture for leather. These are then sent out to exhibitors who will be at the next edition of Le Cuir A Paris and they are asked to submit any leathers which they feel fit with the predictions. Next, they are incorporated into the trend displays, for autumn/winter 2005/6 at this event.

According to Erica Caron, around 95% of the exhibitors respond to their request for relevant leather samples and these are placed within the overall displays of Thèmes de Mode. Some exhibitors will arrive at the show with samples for inclusion and, if possible, even these late entries will be included.

It is always interesting to read the terminology conjured up by the fashion experts to describe the colours, styles and textures which they predict will influence fashion in seasons to come. For autumn/winter 2005/6, the fashion themes as prescribed by the Bureau de Style fall into four categories: Non Conformist, Divine, Bizarre and Electric Gaucho, and there are four colour moods also: Mirage, Fairy Tales, Agape and Calligrafia. The star of the season is a stone colour called City Walls.

The Non Conformist theme is described as ‘So British’ with a twist, a dandified loutish look for the intellectual androgyne who likes noble materials and mixes references to 18th century England with Carnaby Street in the sixties.

Muted colours (reddish blues, bluish reds, old rose) or shocking hues (garish green) tie in with masculine colours: flannel, anthracite, maroon, navy blue, British racing green, and rust).

The spirit of the materials in this theme is said to be rich and ornate, upholstery styles and revamped sixties. There are worn, waxed pocketbook grains; embossed, repoussé, chiseled leather; decorated upholstery leather; coloured suede; 18th century wallpaper paterns; chic grains (ostrich, crocodile, shagreen); wildcat spotted skins; coloured pony and rabbit; beaver; knitted tweed; tapestry and cashmere prints; printed velvet, corduroy; and tweed in herringbone, hound’s tooth and tartans.

Divine is mysterious and distant, somewhere between Marlene Dietrich and Björk, part femme fatale and part snow fairy. This is a couture woman taking inspiration from the 1940s, updated to 2010.

Divine calls for delicate colours: plaster, chalk, ivory, mother-of-pearl, parchment; beautiful colours: flesh pink, rosewood, wisteria, almond green; and mythical colours: plum, aubergine and mole. The essence of the mood is utterly feminine, fairy-like and sophisticated with gloss and pearly sheens. There are dusty grains, leather and fabric lace, embossed and printed leathers, fish skins, shagreen, eel, parchment, sculpted mink, chinchilla, rabbit and curly goat, velvet, silk and chintz.

Bizarre is a land of contrasts. Catwoman prowls a strange, wild world. A bat swoops through the city in search of the mythical mountain. It calls for off-black, deep black, teamed with bright colours, bronze, metallic colours, electric colours, plum and purple.

Materials are high density, technical and feature giant reptiles, bark textures, outsize grains, stretch leather, varnish and vinyl, quilting, wild animal fur etc.

Electric Gaucho underlines that casual looks are back in style. Images of America in the fifties are lit up by the psychedelic wave. A dandy gaucho, dressed in a leather bomber jacket, meets a pin-up rodeo girl at the wheel of her pick-up or perched on her Harley Davidson. A dandified rocker lets loose on his electric guitar.

Here the whole leather range is released: brown, chestnut, fawn, orange and rust; winter blues: sky blue, navy blue, indigo; new greens; red derivatives: dark aubergine, maroon. Materials include the reworked raw look, revamped folk materials and denim: engraved leather, burnt vegetable leather, shorn suede splits, red fox, curly goat, turned sheepskin, spotted prints (foal, pony, cowhide), ribbed velvet, coated canvas, tarpaulin, denim, folk prints and cartoon prints.

The breakdown of exhibitors by sector of activity was: finished and semi-finished leathers 52%, fur 9%, exotic leather 5%, textiles/synthetics 9%, components 5%, leather garments 7%, raw hides and skins 4%, associations, press, agents, schools, bureau de style, designers 9%.

The fur and exotic leather sectors, on the increase in comparison with September 2003, were well represented with new high quality exhibitors coming from Italy (Federico Albarello, Ferdinando Albarello, Pelicon), Spain (Grinon Furs), USA (American Tanning), Brazil (Brespel, Ecomar Industria de Pesca) and China (Shangaï Panfame).

Nature Touch (Brazil), back for a second time, said: ‘We are very happy with our participation. It is indeed, the most well targeted leather fair in the market.’

Vitaly Selivanov from Russkaya Kozha (Russia) agreed with the fact that Le Cuir A Paris is a targeted event but not only for fashion purposes: ‘There are also clients for big tanneries like ours.’

The American companies will return next year. Robert Schnebel from Foothills Leather Co Inc, specialists in leather for clothing and gloves, confirmed his participation for September 2005 and will bring along another tannery specialising in crocodile leather. He’s convinced that ‘American tanneries have their place in the event’.

37% of the visitors are international, coming largely from Italy, Spain, UK, Germany and Türkiye. The American and Canadian visitors appreciated the specialised offer of luxury materials, proving that the ‘European Touch’ remains of high value all over the world.

Carole McClellan (USA), a young designer presented by Le Cuir A Paris in 2002 is now at the head of her own clothing company. She comes back to the show to buy materials from French suppliers (Bodin Joyeux, Seragor) and has also found someone who will outsource production.

2005 dates

The spring session will be held on March 9-10, 2005. The autumn session will be held on September 21-23, 2005.