With a mainly positive reception, this edition of Première Vision Leather is notable for the penchant for innovation displayed by many exhibitors. The familiar classics were somewhat upstaged by new products that tanners have developed in order to stimulate the curiosity of stylists. And while some have found solutions for producing classics at a lower cost, others let their imaginations run wild in order to embellish and decorate leather surfaces.
Sustainable development has become increasingly present in the minds of tanners and also in their product ranges, with a proliferation of more sustainable alternatives. But they are also bringing their entire industrial philosophy into line with the ecological conscience that is now an integral part of the mentality of consumers and labels.
The principal focus of these efforts is leather goods, the driving force of the leather sector, acting as a spearhead as well as a pillar. But footwear and clothing, although more versatile, have not been abandoned by passionate professionals.
New products and developments
The key classics are always successful, particularly with luxury labels for whom these timeless items are a measure of continuity. But in an increasingly competitive environment, where labels are vying with each other to stand out, leather suppliers also have to constantly innovate to meet the needs of their clients. “We promote the strongest, most fashion-focused and innovate items,” says a stylist from Conceria Superior. Bodin Joyeux now presents four universes each season, rather like four product lines where designers can take inspiration for their creations. For Tannerie du Puy, the tendency is for customization and its developments include some quite unexpected features, such as optic fibre embroidery on leather.
In the bovine leather sector, some players, such as Italian Margio, focus on softness for making leather goods, as well as a certain lightness and shine, but with a finish that does not denature the grain. Others apply more effects, opting for mechanical grains, liquid lamination or varnish, where the natural grain of the leather is a secondary consideration. Tanneries like Conceria Trend use flocking or digital printing to enhance the surface of the leather with a number of decorations. Although a very classic material, box calf is tending to become exceptional given that the quality of skins required by this item is increasingly hard to find. A specialist even told us that they could only use a few skins each month for this material, and the smoothing process tended to accentuate the traces of veins. However, producers like Timbrados Rubio give a box appearance to inferior quality leathers, at much more affordable prices. The English dealer, Walter Reginald, focuses on screen-printed decorations. “We wanted to develop specific prints for our clients,” the representant on their stand told us. More audacious still, Nuova Antilope applies a heat- or light-sensitive finish to certain leathers, which reacts to changes in temperature or light intensity.
More subtly, Conceria Superior offers a very fine version of camouflage, with a hand-marbled finish in deep and blurred tonalities.
The small animal tanneries also have plenty of ideas. Just like for calf leather, the scarcity of first choice lamb leathers is driving tanners to find solutions that allow them to “make do” with less-than-perfect skins. “This also allows us to approach labels that are not quite so high-end,” explains a manager from Riba Guixa. Screen-printing is still popular with tanneries to enhance imperfect skins. SCP, for example, does this to mutate gentle lambs into troubling reptiles. Film transfer is also very useful to produce a varnished appearance (SCP) or a leatherette finish (Effegi), a metallic look (Pellami Daniele) or a surface covered with patterns (Lider Deri).
While certain tanners play subtle games with the natural qualities of the lamb leather, such as Alric which imitates box with an item that is “taut and round,” or create a small surface grain, others are more radical, such as Lider Deri, which embosses geometric grains or uses a laser to engrave a camouflage print, or Bodin Joyeux which creates plays of light with its finishes, produces a waxy texture through the finish and the feeding of the skin, or simply works on the undersides of skins. Fans of stretch lamb, such as Pellami Daniele, Walter Reginald or Cuirs du Futur are loyal to it, offering new colours or washed finishes. Fedi Silvano extols the advantages of a large lamb leather of Turkish origin, with a 1mm thickness, particularly suitable for leather goods.
Lastly for shearling lamb leather, G. Estilo focuses on more raw and unfinished appearances, neither too shorn, nor too shiny, and even preserving some of the natural markings.
For goat leathers, we noted the new products from Conceria Conti with their washed, grained and aged appearances that are “cleaner and more regular,” as well as a new species that doesn’t comes from India, with a softer texture that is easier to cut, whilst Walter Reginald confirms suede goat leather as a sound investment for clothing, footwear and leather goods.
Visitor interests and preferences
Constantly on the lookout for ideas, visitors were very receptive to the suggestions of exhibitors, with some ideas in particularly really capturing their attention.
Lamb leather fans appreciated the very authentic articles, or those covered with a light finish or with a small grain from the Alric and Effegi tanneries. The semi-vegetable (retanned) item from Lider Deri, with its round texture, ideal for jackets and blousons, was very popular with stylists. When it attains this level of perfection – as with the Alric tannery – lamb suede always generates admiration. As for the “headscarf” item from Bodin Joyeux, visitors only had to touch it to cover it with praise. Stretch lamb has proved its worth for clothing and it was popular with its fans at Cuirs du Futur and Walter Reginald, for example. More fashion-focused, tartan inkjet-printed lamb leather from Timbrados Rubio won over many visitors.
And the laminated Swarovski item from Fedi Silvano with its crystal finish and plating, was nothing short of dazzling.
Adepts of goat leather were interested in items that had been washed or embossed with a mechanical grain from Conceria Conti. They also appreciated the washed and laminated product from Conceria Trend and its matt satin reference, obtained by lamination then the addition of a matt protective film.
In the register of bovine leathers, varnished and laminated items for footwear from Conceria Margio “worked well”. And the laminated cow crust with a 3D effect from Timbrados Rubio also won plaudits from footwear professionals. Nuova Antilope can be proud of its apparently vegetable-tanned calf leather which actually uses a “brand new” tanning method. A number of visitors were enchanted by it. But we will not know more about this new procedure discovered by the tanner. The gold pleated article from Conceria Superior also won plenty of votes.
And lastly, in the exotic leather category, Reptilis told us about the success of its hand-painted python, whose colours enhance its exoticism. Encouraged by this success, the tanner applied the same principle to ostrich leather, decorating the bumps with a contrasting colour. An initiative which earned it many complements.
Other than for shearling lamb for which, according to our correspondent from G. Estilo “it is no longer in fashion,” black overwhelmingly remains the “safe” colour. The other classic shades, such as dark or light brown, navy blue, grey, gold, camel and sand are also the priority choices. Alongside these basics, a generally warm and dark palette was preferred by buyers, with dark green shooting to the top of the list. A number of reds are hot on its heels: claret, aubergine, violet and purple. Petrol blue is also high on the list of stylists’ preferences. And in the lighter shades, we find red, orangey hues, yellow and a more delicate lichen green. Lastly metallics, mainly silver or gold, are still in vogue.
Exhibitors interviewed for this report almost unanimously declared that sustainable development was a major feature of their policies. They start by respecting the environmental regulations of their country, in order to use less water, less energy and fewer chemical products in their production. “We are renewing our machines, at a rate of one or two investments per year, with installations that are more modern and energy efficient, and which generate less waste,” our correspondent at Nuova Antilope told us. “We also make sure we comply with the laws of the countries we export to, such as Japan for example, where environmental legislation is draconian,” continues the correspondent from G. Estilo. They all conform to the European Reach standards on chemical substances. Many rely on the skills of the Leather Working Group (LWG) to make their production greener. Thanks to the audits carried out by this body, they can improve their processes to reduce their impact on the environment. “Following the audits, we were picked up by brands such as Hugo Boss, Diesel or Massimo Dutti,” said the spokesperson for Lider Deri. Some, such as Alric, have already started a process towards ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals), seeking to eradicate any dangerous waste. “This is even more restrictive than the Reach standards. We have produced one ZDHC item and hope, in time, to make all our output comply with ZDHC standards,” explains the Managing Director, Jean-Charles Duchêne.
More and more tanneries are putting in place alternative chrome-free tanning processes. Thus, Conceria Conti, Timbrados Rubio, Effegi, Reptilis, Conceria Trend, G. Estilo, Fedi, Silvano, SCP, Nuova Antilope and certainly many others that we were unable to talk to, are able to provide solutions for metal-free leather other than vegetable-tanned leather. “We have metal-free sheep leather items in our catalogue and will be developing some in goat leather,” Conceria Conti tells us. “One of our synthetic tanning items even passed the tests for use with babies,” explained the manager from G. Estilo. Even Reptilis manages to use a metal-free tanning process for some of its python skins. However, there are limits to this approach. “The physical characteristics of chrome-free items are not yet of the same standard as those of chrome-tanned items,” warns a manager from Riba Guixa, an expert in the matter. “Some finishes, such as metallization, are not possible on chrome-free items,” the technician on the Pellami Daniele stand tells us. For distributors or finishers of leather, the question is even more delicate, given that they purchase skins that have already been tanned and therefore cannot control that stage.
Although it is very complex to put in place, and not yet widespread, the traceability of hides is more effective when the sourcing is local and homogenous. This is the case of the Bodin Joyeux and Riba Guixa tanneries, for example, whose supplies mainly come from Spain and which position themselves in the premium segment. “We have traceability for the Molurus python,” our correspondent from Reptilis tells us.
Certain exhibitors, such as Conceria Trend and Timbrados Rubio, even told us about their intention to develop articles using vegetable fibres including pineapple leaves.
Leather goods, which are qualified as a “safe haven” by one of our interviewees, remain the most productive outlet. “We work a lot with the footwear sector but we would like to develop our client base for leather goods,” the representative from Timbrados Rubio told us. “That is why we have come to Première Vision Leather.
“Brands are less obsessed by prices for the leather goods sector,” observed someone who wished to remain anonymous.
A more competitive sector that has been hard hit by the vogue for sneakers, the footwear sector is considered to be more difficult and less prosperous by our correspondents, with the exception of Walter Reginald, for whom this market is growing. But some players, like Conceria Superior, have not given up on shoes, which “remain an accessory that women, in particular, tend to favour.”
According to the season, the importance given to leather in the apparel sector varies greatly. “Business is complicated, with a warming climate, the economic fluctuations that affect consumer budgets and the very great changes in trends from one season and one label to another. Even the premium labels look at prices,” the manager from G. Estilo told us. However, without denying the instability in this market, his counterpart from Riba Guixa strikes a positive note, saying “that it is more difficult to produce skins for clothing and therefore there is more competition.” At Bodin Joyeux, there is even “a slight upturn” in this outlet.
A number of tanners are present across a variety of sectors, offering items that can have multiple uses. But truly multi-purpose leathers are rare. It is possible to produce bovine leather suitable for both footwear and leather goods. In ovine leather, it is usually leather goods and apparel that can be combined, as the spokesperson from Fedi Silvano confirmed.
PREMIERE VISION LEATHER HALL 3