HK all set to host giants of leather trade
From today until Friday, two of the world's most important and simultaneous fashion, leather and accessories events are showcasing materials and finished products at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. These trade shows - Materials, Manufacturing & Technology (MM&T), and Fashion Access - both organised by Asia-Pacific Leather Fair (APLF), pull in a substantial number of exhibitors and trade visitors.
At the same time, APLF is staging Prime Source Forum - an annual meeting, launched in 2006, targeting apparel industry senior executives. About 18,000 trade visitors are expected to attend all three events.
'The figures for this year's MM&T have increased 20 per cent and incorporate 82 new exhibitors,' says Perrine Ardouin, APLF event director. 'Launched 27 years ago, it has since become the most international leather fair in the world.'
With 1,235 exhibitors from 51 countries signed up to display their wares across more than 25,000 square metres, it is hard to imagine a larger expanse and variety of treated hides and skins and synthetic fabrics.
'Production figures clearly show that leather production is on the increase in Asia,' Ardouin says. 'It is a by-product of the meat industry and, while meat consumption is dropping in the West, it is increasing in Asia.
'Leather prices have risen recently, as have all commodities. However, there are all types of grades available and, whereas years ago people might save for months or years to buy a leather jacket, now at the lower end of the price scale people can easily buy, from superstores or other retailers in the mass market.
'Every year one country is highlighted at MM&T and this year it is Pakistan. The country has a large tanning production and is one of the leaders in leather motorbike and sports jackets - the country still makes a certain amount of leather sports balls.'
MM&T is, of course, primarily a networking event. The organisers have in recent years decided to schedule debates and workshops on popular topics in the trade. Environmental questions and issues of nomenclature have cropped up frequently.
'Sustainability and the acceptable ways of referring to 'synthetic leather' will be discussed, among many other topics at presentations and debates,' Ardouin says.
'In Brazil, for example, it is illegal to use the word 'leather' in a product name that does not really contain it. We have non-leather material manufacturers exhibiting, so discussions will revolve around this issue of what's in a name.
'During the fair a number of major meetings are held by key players to address the future of the industry.
'One of them resulted last year in a leather industry initiative aimed at educating the buying public and designers about leather. Under the name LeatherNaturally! it encompasses stakeholders of the whole leather supply chain from meat packers to tanners, manufacturers and retail brands.'
Talks, seminars and workshops deliberately cross over to appeal to MM&T and Fashion Access participants. Among other items, leather moulding in humid climates will be discussed; quality crystal maker Swarovski will hold a workshop on crystal embellishment on leather and fabrics; and there will be a seminar on trends for women's accessories for Fall/Winter 2011/2012.
Fashion Access is scheduled to present 644 exhibitors from 30 countries and regions. First-time exhibitors of garments, footwear, bags, small leather goods, travel ware and more who realise the importance of this occasion total 136, and span Asia, Europe, Australia and the Americas. 'Fashion Access covers the fashion industry from head to toe,' Ardouin says. 'Not only literally in exhibiting from accessories to leather garments to footwear, but also with special focus on fashion trends for the coming season.'
An area called Fashion Trends Space will display what's hot for this season and, at the Dress Up area, a roster of models on stage add dynamism into the mix, showcasing exhibitors' products.
APLF has embraced technology to accompany the events more than ever. A new, informative mobile app was created for use with Android and iPhone formats. And the Fashion Net Asia.com portal has become more edgy - particularly with its newly launched Fashion Trends short video productions, entitled Think Classic, Think Eclectic, Think Casual, and Spring-Summer 2012. All of these have elements of Hong Kong in the visuals.
On the APLF.com website is APLF's Design-a-Bag online competition, judged in three categories: Super Fashion, Eco-Friendly and Functional. This contest is open to working designers and design students worldwide. Last year's winners were showcased on the website for inspiration.
For MM&T and Fashion Access, the Best of APLF Awards is a highlight of the three days. Five categories of prize are awarded for the former and eight for the latter, with a panel of 10 industry judges. Sometimes, judges may be inspired by something that was not originally in the judging criteria.
'In 2008, a Tradition and Innovation Award' was spontaneously decided,' Ardouin explains. 'One exhibitor presented fair trade products that incorporated traditionally handmade ethnic material from Venezuela - and these pieces just seemed so special, the judges thought they deserved an official merit.'
The event director says that Hong Kong remains the hub of the fashion industry and is still the obvious choice for the trio of presentations. 'We do now have a presence in China and India,' she says. 'But Hong Kong is a good geographical location, and the established legal structure provides a more business-friendly environment - and after years of building up a reputation, exhibitors and buyers expect higher-end ranges of products to be shown in Hong Kong than in many other places.
'APLF happily advises exhibitors on how to get the most out of their exhibition participation and if they provide product photos in advance, we use them in publicity materials.
'Overseas buyers, like Hong Kong and China buyers, know Hong Kong as one of the first places they might make a luxury purchase - several fashion houses have flagship stores here.
'Western markets are slowing but Asian ones are growing, and more of the bigger names are keen to show themselves in the region.'
FASHION ACCESS, MM&T AND PRIME SOURCE FORUM
Venue Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
Date March 30-April 1, 9am-6pm
Admission Trade only