New York didn’t bear the brunt of January’s polar vortex, and even while temperatures plummeted, Lineapelle New York stood firm – not frozen – to warm up the US market. There was a high level of interest in trends and innovation breakout discussions amid a backdrop of confusion and uncertainty stemming from Washington.

However, 132 exhibitors (101 tanneries, 13 manufacturers of accessories and components, and 18 specialists in fabrics and synthetics) presented previews of their 2020 summer collections, all produced in line with the Co-Natural mood developed by the Lineapelle fashion committee.

The result, as reported by the event management, “exceeded expectations and was characterised by a good turnout and a high level of quality of contacts”.

This was positive reinforcement of a climate where US buyers are on the lookout for materials, accessories and components that enable them to characterise the top of their lines, thus attempting to minimise the economic turbulence engulfing the US leather market.

According to data from the Italian Tanners Association, UNIC, (based on ISTAT data), the export of finished leather to the US actually decreased by 9% on an annual basis in October. This bearish trend is generalised, with the exception of resilient bovine crust leathers, and also involves sheep and goats.

There is also a mixed picture for accessories and components, a sector that in October saw volumes exported to the US increase by 1%; however, this was alongside a 3% decrease in value, with soles and bottoms for footwear suffering in particular. The value of small metal parts is growing (but quantities are dropping), while the market situation for fabrics, synthetics and leather substitutes is lacklustre.

Guesswork is therefore part of the business climate, but the outcome of Lineapelle New York has offered some comfort, and attitudes are positive going into Lineapelle in Milan, starting on 20 February. In general, the consensus of the buyers back in New York was one of satisfaction regarding the quality of the exhibitors. And considering the economic difficulties at hand, there is always strong demand for high-end products in this important market.

Difficulties remain for premium segments, however, where the US market continues to weather the economic storm and search for the best price.

The two days of Lineapelle New York also allowed organisers to test North American interest in the futuristic content of Lineapelle Innovation Square, “the hub of inspiration” that will be back with its second edition in October during Lineapelle 97. The Innovation Talks hit the mark, bringing together researchers, scholars and opinion-makers to discuss the idea that the future is under way.

The next edition of Lineapelle New York will take place on 17–18 July 2019 alongside the fourth World Leather Congress.