At 9:15 AM today, we left for our last site visit by taking the Metro there. I feel like I am slowly becoming a pro at the Metro since we have used it so often during our time in Milan! Our destination today was Linea-Pelle which is a business organization that coordinates exhibitions around the world for members within the leather industry. Linea-Pelle represents this constantly changing industry as it is producing innovative styles of leather products and addressing sustainability issues. They play a crucial role by creating an environment where the tanneries can benefit from one another.
Linea-Pelle exhibits the products of many different tanneries from 44 different countries, and an amazing 22,000 visitors from one hundred different countries attend these exhibitions. Through collaborative efforts, Linea-Pelle knows what the trends are for each season and are normally a year and a season ahead when placing orders from tanneries. The walls in the area where our tour was conducted were decorated with different leather and pattern swatches that are changed out every six months. This company exhibits a variety of animal hides such as: cattle, sheep, goat, pig, kangaroo, and deer. Tanneries obtain these hides from sources that use animals for consumption, so they have transformed a raw material by-product into something useful. It was noted that 99% of these raw materials are obtained from food industry sources while the 1% comes from breeders of animals such as ostrich, frogs, and pythons that are not consumed as often. It was interesting to learn that certain leathers are best used for certain types of products as well such as lambskin for gloves and sheepskin for book bindings.
We were introduced to the many types of leathers and also touched on the topic of synthetic leathers and their role in the fashion industry. I enjoyed being able to touch and feel many of the 13,000 archived leather samples as part of our learning process today. The samples were diverse in color and texture with many being embossed, screen-printed, dyed, laser designed, quilted, embroidered, pleated, and metalized. Many of these options were never available before technological advancements occurred. Technological advancements and improvements to perfectly simulate leather products have the potential to impact the leather industry in the future, however our guide explained that as of now she does not see synthetic leather taking over real leather in the industry. Since people are still eating meat and the hides are readily available, the tanneries upcycle this by-product. Additionally, although fake leather is getting extremely difficult to differentiate from real leather, there are still some ethical concerns with the production of synthetics. Many synthetics use more chemicals for production than real leather which is more toxic to the environment. However, I think that a future with synthetic leather has great possibilities if there was a way to use recycled materials and very limited chemicals/byproducts. So, I do believe a future with synthetics would be a good thing, especially for the protection of endangered or exotic animals or when considering the questionable ethics of some breeding farms (living environments/slaughtering).
The production of authentic leather products continues to meet resistance from animal activists and organizations such as Greenpeace. However, knowing that the hides are coming the food industry seems to be more ethical than killing an animal just for its hide. Chemicals used in the tanning of animal hides such as chromium salts also present sustainability issues for the environment. With the implementation of new procedures and regulations, tanneries have been able to reduce pollutants by 98%. Our guide from Linea-Pelle noted that tanneries hope that synthetic leather manufacturers will have more environmental regulations imposed upon them as well.
After visiting Linea-Pelle we had our farewell lunch at a very nice hotel, did some last minute shopping in Milan near IF Bags where the trip began, had a small group goodbye dinner. I now have to finish packing and truly hope that my purchases make it home safely – leather goods from Scuola del Cuoio, jewelry from a small shop in Milan, and a few other things that I can not divulge in case anyone special is reading this blog! I’m sad to be leaving Italy and will treasure this experience for a lifetime. I enhanced my knowledge base regarding supply chain and the fashion industry in an amazing location. I feel as though I have gained a lot academically and personally – I am stronger and wiser! However, I am excited to no longer be living out of a suitcase. Ciao!
|| Alaina All’Estero – “Alaina Abroad” ||