The inaugural edition of Leatherworld Middle East has begun in Dubai with 85 exhibitors from ten countries showcasing their latest animal hides, machinery, leather products and accessories in a market that’s establishing itself as a major force in the global leather industry.

Running for three days at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, Leatherworld Middle East 2015 comes as figures released by Euromonitor International (EMI) show the Gulf region’s trade for semi-finished and finished leather, accessories, travel goods, handbags and footwear was worth US$4.09 billion in 2014.

The Gulf Cooperation Council is also a leather manufacturing hub; according to EMI, US$1.9 billion worth of dressed leather, luggage, handbags, saddlery, harnesses and footwear were produced in the Gulf region last year, with Saudi Arabia (US$1.1 billion), the UAE (US$468 million), and Qatar (US$250 million) the region’s big three leather producers.

UAE-based Al Khaznah Tannery is sharing the limelight in Leatherworld Middle East’s dedicated Leather Production Area, with 15 French and eight Italian tanneries making their first foray into the Middle East. Among these is exotic leather tanner Faggioli, presenting its new collection of hand-painted python skins.

"The Middle East is a prominent market for leather goods, accessories, furnishings, luggage and footwear, while it’s also a fast-growing manufacturing hub for all things leather-related," said Ahmed Pauwels, CEO of Messe Frankfurt Middle East, the organiser of Leatherworld Middle East.

"As the market gains in stature internationally, events like Leatherworld Middle East have a significant role to play in fuelling the industry’s overall growth and development."