Leather International: Considering there have been attempts to have Dubai leather trade fairs in the past, can you describe the timing to launch Leatherworld Middle East now in terms of an already demanding calendar for leather fairs? What makes this unique?


Ahmed Pauwels: At Leatherworld Middle East, we have created the region’s only dedicated trade show that covers the entire value chain of the global leather industry.


The show covers every aspect of what goes into creating, for example, a leather handbag; from the tanneries that prepare the semi-finished and finished leather hide, to the machinery and chemical suppliers that treat the leather, right through to the manufacturer of the end product and the designer behind it.


Leatherworld Middle East covers upstream and downstream exhibitors in the leather value chain, and this is what sets it apart from previous attempts of leather shows in the Middle East, which would predominantly focus on the downstream side.


Consumption of luxury leather goods in the retail market is on the increase in the UAE and the wider Middle East. Dubai alone has always been a major luxury shopping destination, attracting resident and tourist spending alike. With around 400 luxury brands and stores, Dubai is one of the leading hubs for luxury retail in the world, of which leather is a core component.


And it’s not just Dubai. Luxury retail in the UAE and the wider GCC is growing at a steady rate of 5-8%, as other markets such as Europe struggle with economic austerity, while another big market, Russia, feels the impact of economic sanctions amid the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.


There’s also big demand for leather in other markets; the booming regional hospitality sector is a big consumer of leather for hotel and restaurant interior design (furniture, trimmings and finishing), while automotive, boats (superyachts), and private and commercial regional airlines are big consumers of customised leather for their interiors.


Finally, the UAE ranks 22 out of 189 countries in ease of doing business while Dubai is strategically located between the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa, which makes it one of the largest re-exporting hubs, and an ideal bridge for the global leather industry.


These all present several compelling reasons that support the launch of Leatherworld Middle East, and with more than 80 exhibitors on board for the inaugural edition, we have the full support of the industry.


In terms of longevity, what is the plan for Leatherworld Middle East to maintain its vitality?

There are more than 250 leather-related fairs around the world, but only a handful of high-quality leather exhibitions. Our goal is to place Leatherworld Middle East among the top ten leather trade shows in the world.


In order to reach this milestone, we have to constantly reflect the latest trends and developments of the global leather industry, while being a focal point of the Middle East’s leather industry expansion.


Our vision is to be an incubator of new innovations and to present a knowledge-sharing platform that brings tanneries, suppliers, designers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers all under one roof.


Leatherworld Middle East 2015 is mapped out with key features such as the ‘Trend Zone’, a dedicated section at the centre of the exhibition floor where tanneries will display the latest international leather trends, from leather colours, textures, leather types, new design innovations and eco-leather.


The ‘Leather Production Zone’ is another area where tanneries and leather dealers showcase leather from Italy, Germany, Spain, and Indonesia, while ‘The Fashion Avenue’ and ‘The Shoe Box’, are dedicated sections entirely for footwear and fashion items respectively. As the industry evolves, so too must Leatherworld Middle East, and we will continue to add more value-added features, conferences and other attractions that keep the show at the forefront of global leather.


In addition to a regional draw, how will you attract a global presence, especially US buyers who might be reluctant to travel there?

Our main objective at this early stage is to attract buyers from the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the subcontinent. Buyers from Europe and the Americas, for now, won’t venture outside of the top-five leather trade shows in their respective regions.


We are confident that more and more buyers from Europe, and North and South America will come as Leatherworld Middle East further develops itself into one of the world’s leading barometers for the global leather industry.


About half of the visitors (approximately 43,000) to our three flagship events, Automechanika Dubai, Beautyworld Middle East and Intersec, all come from outside of the UAE, and when there are high-end exhibitors at Leatherworld Middle East, their clients follow to meet them, which adds to the number of international visitors.


Some experts we’ve spoken to have said that Dubai is a lukewarm place for an international show, geographically speaking. Italy and Paris bring design, fashion, luxury and creativity via many sectors and big customers. Hong Kong and Shanghai have China/Asia on the doorstep and many top brands and company offices/reps locally. Where is the market and what is the offer for Leatherworld Middle East?

Dubai is in fact a red-hot location to host an international trade show from a geographic and economic perspective, covering any industry sector from the automotive aftermarket (Automechanika Dubai), beauty and wellness (Beautyworld Middle East), safety, security and fire-protection (Intersec) – the list goes on.


Last year, 2.2 million trade visitors stopped by the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (the venue of Leatherworld Middle East) to visit more than 500 events and the emirate has successfully branded itself as a leading exhibition, business and leisure destination.


In reference to the fashion design industry specifically, Dubai is set to be the Middle East’s fashion design hub, with construction already well under way on the massive Dubai Design District, a 1.7-million-square-metre development dedicated to the fashion industry, housing design studios, boutique hotels, high-end apartments and, of course, yet another promenade for luxury shopping.


That aside, through its strategic location in Dubai, Leatherworld Middle East offers European and other international exhibitors direct access to key markets in the wider Middle East, Africa and Iran – markets that are otherwise difficult to reach.


Global manufacturers and brands can evaluate potential acquisitions and identify key business opportunities to control supply, costs and quality of raw leather products and supplies. The show gives them more options when looking to outsource the production of value-added processed goods and labour-intensive production to improve price competitiveness.


Fair insight

After equal parts debate and anticipation, the Gulf region’s $3.9-billion leather trade is poised to showcase a new industry platform in Dubai. Leatherworld Middle East promises to bring opportunities for suppliers as UAE leather imports and exports were valued at $2 billion in 2013.


The Gulf region’s passion for luxury goods and growing leather trade underscore the motivation to put together this ambitions fair in an already congested calendar for the leather industry. But leather manufacturers, suppliers and buyers are eager to capitalise on growing opportunities in one of the world’s business hubs.


The launch of the three-day Leatherworld Middle East exhibition last year came as the billion-dollar trade of leather goods and accessories in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) reflects a new landscape of rising opportunity in the global leather industry.


The increasing leather trade, and appetite for luxury goods in Dubai and the wider region, presented the right backdrop for the fair, according to fair organiser Messe Frankfurt.


The three-day event has also garnered ranging support from international leather trade and tannery associations, including the French Hides Association (Syndicat General des Cuirs et Peaux) and the French Federation of Tanners (Federation Française de la Tannerie Mégisserie).


Made possible by Messe Frankfurt, one of the world’s leading trade show organisers, the inaugural edition of the Middle East’s premier leather trade show will bring together leading international suppliers and manufacturers. And through the fair, Messe Frankfurt is seeking to build crucial market cooperation and harness various sources of supply in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.



Exhibitor insight

UAE-based Al Khaznah Tannery’s 100% biodegradable, metal-free camel leather will be a focal point at Leatherworld Middle East 2015. The tannery uses only natural ingredients to treat its range of camel leather, and is one of the few tanneries in the world equipped to recycle up to 80% of the water required in production.


The Abu-Dhabi-based facility, owned by the Abu Dhabi Government, produces about 4.2 million square feet of camel leather a year, and counts international fashion houses, designers, airlines, footwear and accessories manufacturers among its clientele.


Al Khaznah Tannery is now looking to boost its local partnerships and grow its export markets when the first edition of Leatherworld Middle East takes place.


On board as a founding sponsor for the three-day event, the tannery will demonstrate first-hand, to key buyers and trade visitors, why the more durable and versatile camel leather is sought after by leather goods’ producers worldwide.


Waste from Camel hide is especially notable for being totally biodegradable within four months of production, and is completely chrome free.


"We are extremely pleased to welcome Al Khaznah, a trailblazer and internationally-renowned UAE tannery, for the inaugural edition of Leatherworld Middle East," says Pauwels.


With more than 70 exhibitors already signed up for the inaugural edition of Leatherworld Middle East, indications are that the show is being well received by regional and international market players.


ESMOD Dubai, one of the world’s leading fashion design institutions, is also on board as the show’s official supporter.


Leatherworld Middle East will feature exclusive product zones, including ‘The Shoe Box’, a section dedicated entirely to footwear; ‘The Trend Zone’, for tanneries to display the latest international leather trends, from colours, leather types and innovations to eco leather; and ‘The Fashion Avenue’, where suppliers of high-street fashion leather products showcase high-end leather clothes and accessories.