For our group’s final day in Milan, we travelled to LineaPelle and we were given a presentation as to how different types of leather is produced, the different steps in the tanning process and just an overall look into the industry. LineaPelle is a member of UNIC (roughly 200 members total) and represents many of the respected tanneries in Italy. UNIC protects the interests of those companies within their organization and helps provide for them on a strategic level. The physical location that our group visited today is a think space for designers to gain inspiration as they looked through different archives along with different cuts and colors of leather. Furthermore, the presenter mentioned that trade students can take leather courses there if they wanted to continue pursuing design in their professional careers. The presentation was quite interactive as she passed out countless pieces of leather for us to personally touch and look at, insisting that this was an important part in order to truly experience the leather. Our presenter explained that what LineaPelle does is essentially create the trends for each season for different tanneries across Italy. Every year each of the LineaPelle storefronts (Milan, London, New York) have an international leather fair which allows designers to directly interact with tanneries from across the globe. LineaPelle helps foster this communication by putting on these leather fairs and being the middleman in the relationship between the design of the product and the actual production of it. Furthermore, the presenter explained how the tanneries that they engage with can justify their leather production by having all the animals from which they take leather (except frogs and snakes which are bred directly for leather production in some cases) be consumed as food before taken as leather. Essentially stating that these animals are not just created to to be killed for leather and the not used in any other manner. Likewise, LineaPelle stressed the importance of having a healthy work environment with the tanneries that they work with and how all materials are reused along with all pollutants being removed from the wastewater. Clarifying these steps made the process seem much more acceptable and regulated compared to what I initially assumed about the leather tanning industry.
With regards to the outlook of the leather tanning industry in the future, there are many questions as to how a firm like LineaPelle will remain relevant in the grand scheme of the process. There are many other forms of synthetic leather production which are much less harmful to the animals and allow the synthetic leather to be more accessible to different consumers. Our presenter explained how certain tanneries can now digitally print their leathers which amazed me. For what seems like such an old and archaic process, I did not expect there to be much of an effort to digitalize this industry. Furthermore, the industry will continue to receive blowback from animal rights activist groups as long as they continue to work with tanneries and this will amplify as the issue of sustainability and fair trade continues to be emphasized more with each passing year. I know that the industry values legitimate leather much higher than synthetic leather but it will be interesting to see if this trend begins to shift as society continues to evolve and changes many of the norms for production.
With regards to my Personal Issues on this trip, they have been few and far between! I have greatly enjoyed walking the streets of the different cities that our group has visited and seeing how people dress and interact. I noticed that people tend to dress much nicer in Italy compared to the United States. I do not believe that urban Italians have more money than those in the US but rather they invest in their clothes with a long term mindset. Meaning that they will spend much more on an item if they know the quality will last them much longer compared to the the US mindset which is continually shopping and dumping old clothes. I have also noticed how much longer meals last whenever I am eating at a restaurant. This was an adjustment for me throughout the duration of the trip but I think I have finally gotten used to this cultural change. I can now appreciate a much longer meal and learn to relax, put down my phone, and enjoy the company that is in front of me.