On the line

20 August 2019

After a strong show in New York in July, Lineapelle returns to its ancestral home in Italy in early October for the European autumn edition to showcase the winter 2020–21 collections and advancements in leather technology. Fieramilano Rho, outside Milan’s city centre, will once again be the venue as thousands flock to the three-day event, starting 2 October.

The core of Milan’s Lineapelle is its ‘Trend Areas’, displaying the most innovative samples provided by exhibitors, primarily focusing on leathers, accessories and components. Prominently featured will be New York’s Parsons School of Fashion graduate Ariane Duhaney, who won the 2019 Leather Creations Contest during the fourth World Leather Congress (WLC) in Manhattan in July.

Duhaney was one of 10 finalists whose leather creations were on display in the Metropolitan Pavilion at the WLC. Their designs were made possible by leather supplied by UNIC, and Duhaney’s natural vegetable-tanned concepts made her stand out from the competition. But she, along with everyone else attending, will arrive in Milan with the market feeling a bit worse for wear.

The Italian tanning industry itself ended 2018 with a production volume of 128 million square metres of finished leather and 10,000 tonnes of sole leather, for a total value of about €4.9 billion. Despite impressive numbers, it was overall a lacklustre year, characterised by a moderate fall in value (-3.2%) and a decline in production volumes of 0.9% (-8.1% for sole leather).

When it took a turn

After a positive 2017, the sector cooled, due to manufacturing demand that gradually slowed during the year despite automotive performing well. The main factors responsible for this dynamic is the decline in demand from the footwear sector, as well as poor continuity of leather goods.

In addition, exports of tanned leather, which amounted to €3.6 billion in 2018 and reached 122 countries, fell by 4.8%. Among the top 10 foreign destination markets, exports only grew for France, Vietnam and Tunisia (a country where many Italian customers have relocated their production), while shipments declined in the remaining destinations. And it can’t be ignored that there has been doubledigit decreases regarding China, which still remains the first-choice partner of Italian tanneries.

The negative economic context has also affected all the main tanning competitors on a global level. Consequently, Italian tanners further strengthened their international leadership. Italy is in fact firmly on top of the ranking of ‘main tanning producer’, with a share of 22% in value, and of ‘main exporters’, given that 28% of overall finished leather exported in the world is Italian.

On the up

Despite the sector’s enduring complexity, the first months of 2019 confirmed upward trends of the major European luxury brands, in continuity with the positive performances already observed in 2018. French houses LVMH, Kering and Hermès performed very well, for example, while uncertainties for Italian brands, like Ferragamo, are gaining momentum. But irrespective of market sluggishness and instability, Lineapelle will still demonstrate its integral place in the leather calendar, and serve as a bellwether as companies brace for 2020.

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