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Good Times Are Here Again - in Hong Kong

The global leather industry may be changing, but it is also booming and expanding into new exciting – and profitable - markets.  That was the clear message from the twin APLF exhibitions, Materials, Manufacturing & Technology (MMT) and Fashion Access (FA) recently held over March 28-30, 2007. With the traditional leather industry merging into the vast international apparel and fashion industry both MMT and FA focus more and more into providing market intelligence, fashion and trend forecasting, and drawing in a far wider selection of buyers than ever before. 

 New players are coming into this sector, often younger and representing a whole range of businesses which were not previously major purchasers of leather or leather related products.

With Hong Kong already acknowledged as a leading hub in the world apparel and fashion fields, buyers seem especially willing to attend events held there. They were not disappointed.  Neither were the 2,525 exhibitors present.

APLF - Materials, Manufacturing & Technology (MMT)


Forecasting the trends in materials for tomorrow’s leather garments, bags, shoes, leather goods and travelware has never been more critical for tanners, traders and manufacturers alike.  Colours and textures change constantly.  Most buyers are looking ahead to conventional Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter seasonal collections: a few already think in terms of 26 seasons per year: that’s a whole new collection every two weeks.

ImageThe good news is that business for exhibitors at MMT was generally buoyant, and in many cases exceptionally so.  Despite the continuing advance of electronic communication the advantages of having a marketplace for face-to-face (feel and touch) exchanges were evident everywhere.  Juan Squires, from the Colombian tannery Curtiembre De Itagui SA said simply, “I’ve been to leather fairs all over the world: I’ve been here at Hong Kong three times before, but this is the best fair ever”.   Mr Squires’ remarks were made about an hour before the end of the final day in a booth still humming with activity.

Practical changes would have been noted by those attending previous MMT events.  This time tanners, chemical companies and machinery manufacturers were together in Hall 1, while the growing importance of component suppliers was recognised with Hall 3 devoted to the sector.  Running MMT over three days (rather than four) resulted in more action on the exhibition floor continuing unabated until the close of the final day.

Philippe Benguigui of Leather Trading France, looking to source skins for his trading company observed, “APLF does give buyers the opportunity to examine leather from different parts (of the world). It is valuable to the world leather industry.”

Change was evident right from the opening ceremony, a highly rated fashion show, unveiling for the first time the latest collection from noted Hong Kong fashion designer, Ika Butoni. This event signalled the start of both APLF trade fairs.

Fashion Access (FA)

ImageThe fashion accessory sector is presently enjoying a period of unprecedented growth.  Fortunately, it is widely regarded as being exceptionally profitable too.  Demand at retail level backs up to business opportunities galore for manufacturers and suppliers.

The fashion accessory sector is presently enjoying a period of unprecedented growth.  Fortunately, it is widely regarded as being exceptionally profitable too.  Demand at retail level backs up to business opportunities galore for manufacturers and suppliers.

An unprecedented number of new buyers are looking for products across all sectors – leather garments, shoes, bags, belts  - accessories of all kinds.  Many of the large high street apparel brands now market footwear, handbags, sunglasses, belts and wallets much more aggressively than before.  Other buyers represent niche boutiques which open an opportunity to those exhibitors of branded products who can offer small but exclusive production runs.

The well known watchmaker and accessories manufacturer, Philippe Charriol, has attended APLF events in Hong Kong over the years and visits friends and professional contacts.  He says of MMT, “It has become a focal point in Asia for the world leather industry.”

Image‘Highlights on Bangladesh’ featured products from a country less well known than it ought to be.  Saiful Islam, President of the Leathergoods and Footwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association of Bangladesh, explains that their target markets are very much in the middle to upper level.  There is good cause for this due to several factors. One is that the local leather comes from ‘organic’ cattle: those raised naturally and without steroids or growth hormones.  The result is hides and skins with exceptionally good grain pattern and few blemishes, says Mr Islam.  There is also an abundant supply of skilled but inexpensive labour and a determined campaign by both the government and the industry to maintain a high level of training. 

There is also the fact that Bangladesh enjoys Preferential Treatment in several key markets such as the EU, Canada, Japan and Australia.  

FA continues to forge ahead into the world of fashion, highlighting trend forecasting of colours, designs and materials.  The bag sector continues to grow and there were more shoes on display than ever before. 

ImageBenedetto Eleuteri owns one of Italy’s best known shoe brands, Pompili, which is still made in Italy, but his budget level Bi4 range is manufactured in China. “My shoes are now made with Italian styling, with the flair and panache of our creative designers, but in China we get low production costs. I have no complaint about Chinese workmanship”, Mr Eleuteri says.  “It measures up to our standards.”  Mr Eleuteri expresses his wider view by observing, “Greater world co-operation can solve many of our problems and exhibitions like this play an important role in bringing shoe-makers of many countries together”.

Bringing people together held true - in more than one sense - at the Fashion Access Party. Held in a nearby night club the exceptionally well-attended event was the occasion for the prize giving of the new, on-line Design A Bag competition.  Mr Paul Charron, Chairman Emeritus of fashion giant Liz Claiborne presented the awards. Mr Charron was in Hong Kong attending (and addressing) Prime Source, a networking seminar event for the global apparel and fashion industry, organised by APLF and held in the same location and, over the same time span, as MMT and FA.


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