Products and finishes: the highlights of the season
Despite the renewed vigour of the luxury sector, visitor preferences illustrated a certain prudence. Playing with the various elements that can impact on an article, such as grain, surface, suppleness and thickness, visitors did not seem inclined to take big risks and continued to negotiate hard on prices.
With regard to bovine leather, smooth appearances were a sure-fire winner, as were grained finishes providing they showed a certain suppleness. Vegetable-tanned bovine leather continues to be appreciated for its firmness, although it was also in demand for clothing. Oiled versions with a more natural appearance were popular, too, while metallics continued their rise, for footwear as well as for leather goods.
© Arnal © Pistolesi
Despite its high price, calf leather remained one of the “Musts” of the show. Whether shiny or matt, and particularly with a nubuck finish, it is always the ultimate in chic. Laminated and even cracked articles offered a more relaxed look. Vintage finishes with less uniform surfaces and a timeworn appearance were still popular. Exhibitors also reported demand for stretch calf leather for use with footwear. And lastly, with its incomparable suppleness and fineness, but also good strength, baby calf is the new favourite of the luxury houses.
The tanners of smaller animals observed less demand for fashion finishes than in other periods. Soft and smooth dipped lamb maintains its number one position. But here as well, aged and metallic finishes also experienced a certain success. When bonded to textiles, lamb finds a role in clothing and footwear, not only in the stretch versions that have become quite commonplace these days, but also in pairings with more aesthetic materials giving a double-sided finish. Sheepskins is also an essential double-sided product for winter collections, particularly as there are a multitude of finishes for the wool side, which can be straight or curly, shorn or shiny, there is something for everyone. But the most in-demand product was the Spanish merino, although its high price makes it vulnerable to the English domestic version, which is more affordable.
Season after season, goat leather continues to make itself popular, offering strong solutions that are reasonably priced and very varied. Although appreciated for its natural (flattened) grain, a number of professionals went for a suppler version that has been buffed to a suede finish or even decorated with transfers. For more refined uses, kid leather is preferred, for its finer grain and smoother feel.
Finally, in the exotic sector, crocodile and python are still the leaders in precious leathers. The former is in demand in an ultra-fine finish for clothing or a large skin finish for extra-large bags, and maintains a certain classicism despite a notable interest for its metallic versions; meanwhile the latter is appreciated for its fashion finish, whether laminated, metallic, shiny or sparkling, or hand-painted scale by scale. And from furriers, mink was back in favour, sometimes also with a metallic finish, while there was high demand for Shadow fox fur from Finland.
Projects and developments
Despite the relatively prudent climate, tanners are no less inventive in seeking to inspire the creativity of their clients. Their efforts to offer calf leather that is less fragile, waterproof or rub-resistant are continuing. No effort is spared to produce bovine leathers with a mechanical grain that are ever suppler, so as to continue to attract leather goods labels. They are working to improve the texture and appearance of digital printing, in order to offer decorative solutions that preserve the authenticity of the leather. Many are modernising their factories to be able to respond faster, more precisely and more efficiently to requests from their clients. And all are working to find solutions that will allow them to meet the demand from luxury brands for premium calf leather, even if they cannot control the source.
Tanners of small animal hides demonstrate the same zeal for renewing their offer and rekindling the curiosity of brands. Digital printing is also being perfected here to reproduce a pattern with maximum definition without denaturing the skin. Aged aspects are worked to achieve a patina that is even more realistic in terms of its colour or grain, or with a more sensual crispy finish. Many exhibitors have described the developments underway to add to their catalogue a vegetable-tanned or chrome-free lamb leather with mechanical and aesthetic qualities that are comparable with those of chrome-tanned hides. Double-sided specialists are pursuing their efforts to obtain hair-on leathers that are even lighter and suppler. Goat leather producers are improving their vegetable-tanned articles for leather goods and are investing in exclusive films used to decorate their laminated articles.
© Fortier Beaulieu
Professionals in the exotic leather sector are demonstrating the same spirit of forward planning, anticipating demand. Python specialists are refining and softening their skins without weakening them, in order to offer a wider range of garment possibilities. At Première Vision Leather, to win over the luxury labels, Topcroc is seeking to “improve the quality of its production” and is planning to “open a tanning and finishing unit in Europe in order to better meet the needs of the leading houses”. In the fur sector, Padova Furs wants to make skins even lighter, perfect the metallization process and produce new intarsias.
As a general rule, we can say that colour was not the key issue at the show, brands are developing their own colours and then requiring their suppliers to use them. However, some visitors who were less determined or more spontaneous did linger over certain colours. Grey caught the eye of these professionals, particularly in a taupe or pinky hue. Warm, naturals shades such as brownish-claret, beetroot and yolk were also popular. Bright colours were not overlooked, with bright poppy reds, Klein blues and lawn greens. Among the winter classics, khaki took the lion’s share, while gold and silver were the popular metallic shades.
© Italven © Novalpina
More and more appreciated by luxury labels, ecology is increasingly at the heart of tanners’ concerns. Brands such as Burberry with their Projet 2020 have appreciated the importance of the ecological challenge and are requiring their suppliers, particularly leather suppliers, to adopt an eco-friendly approach that will benefit all parties. “Stylists do not mention it so often but buyers are increasingly aware of it,” explains Javier Almira from the Spanish tannery, Hosbo. Some tanners, such as Didier Lieutard, have adopted a short supply chain approach, using the hides of goats from his region. Other are seeking to enhance their traceability to offer their clients guarantees on the living and slaughter conditions of the animals. For tanners of exotic hides, the task is somewhat easier, thanks to the CITES certificate that accompanies each skin. “But we prefer to source our pythons from farms in order to have greater control over the origins of the animals,” declares our correspondent from Anaconda.
The vast majority of tanners now pay close attention to the production process and the chemical products they use. All respect the REACH standards that have been established and are regularly updated by the European Union. “We are in the process of auditing our entire production chain,” a very committed tanner told us. A number of our correspondents told us that they had recently recruited, or were about to recruit, an expert entirely dedicated to the ecological aspects. Vegetable-tanning specialists are also highlighting their work under the Chrome-Free label. Tanneries that use both methods would like to increase the proportion of vegetable tanning. Synthetically-tanned leathers are being developed by a number of tanneries, some of which also offer metal-free leathers.
Of those we interviewed, some had already earned national certifications and ISO 14001, attesting to their compliance with the demands of sustainable development. “One leading brand recently chose us as their supply thanks to our certifications,” our correspondent at the Italian tannery Nuti Ivo told us. Many are working towards acquiring this precious award, notably by modernising their installations and reducing emissions, purifying and recycling the waste water, reducing the company’s energy consumption and its carbon footprint.
© Nuova Icos
PREMIERE VISION LEATHER HALL 3