Today we visited the the Linea Pelle Fashion Studio in Milan, which was quite the leather experience. Linea Pelle features the finest international leather and accessories. Linea Pelle is the EU and world leader for production value, internationalization, quality, design innovation, technological development, and sustainability. Linea Pelle makes up 65% of the production of leather of the EU and 19% of the production in the world. The woman who presented let us touch dozens of samples of leather of all kinds of animals in order to know and feel what good, real leather is and how it is made. She explained to us that Linea Pelle is an association that represents the tanneries of Italy and is the most important leather exposition in the world. Tanneries pay to be a part of this association, much like the Consortium Della Moda, and the Italian tanneries are primarily in charge of this association. After the tanneries pay Linea Pelle to be a part of the association, they can be featured in the leather exhibitions and hopefully purchased by manufacturers who will then create leather goods which are then either sold directly to the customer or to wholesalers or retailers. It seems like there are a million ways to make a leather skin, from a metallic stingray to a suede toad.
Here are some stats about Linea Pelle. Linea Pelle has about 13,000 samples of leather and 4,000 samples of accessories, and every single sample is archived. Linea Pelle is 54% Italians and 46% international, with over 1,000 exhibitors. They also hold fashion conferences and leather courses. The Italian tanning industry has 1,243 companies and 17,824 employees. There are four main regions for the Italian tanneries: Lombardia, Toscana, Veneto, and Campania. Over half of the tanneries come from the Veneto region. There are 4 steps in the leather making process: preparation to the tanning, tanning, post tanning treatments, and finishing. There are two ways you can tan leather: chrome or vegetable. The vegetable tanned leather looks more natural, as leather takes the color of the tanning agent used. If you want the suede effect of leather, you have to go through the buffing process. There are three ways you can buff the skin: suede flesh split, suede or velour, or nubuck. Nubuck is the most precious suede as the leather is buffed on the grain side.
The standard skins that Linea Pelle features are cattle, sheep, goat, pig, kangaroo, and deer. They also feature some speciality skins like crocodile, toad, stingray, shark and cobra. Linea Pelle is pretty efficient in their production process, as 99% of their leathers come from hides that are used for the food industry. They also have a 70% waste recovery in their production process.
Technology has already begun to change the leather industry. For example, the presentation featured a video that showed how lasers were used to add different textures, prints, and patterns to the skins, which is a recent development. Something interesting I discovered today was that using wine to make leather is actually not efficient, as it produces more waste to make synthetic leathers than natural animal skin ones. Another interesting thing I discovered today was that you can use technology today to print on leather skin, which I think is very interesting. Overall, I think that using technology on real leather skins to change its color, pattern, texture, cut, etc., is a good thing because it adds more options to the clients and customers. Customers will likely keep buying leather if there are always new variations of it coming to the markets, and this will help keep the tanneries and manufacturers of leather in business.
After we visited Linea Pelle we had our last group meal together (our farewell lunch) and did some last minute shopping before we got packing for the long trip ahead of us back to the States. The Plus 3 study abroad experience has been a dream come true for me. All my life I have wanted to explore the world, and during this trip I finally had my chance to experience business and life in a new cultural setting. I got to see the world of fashion on a whole new level. Before this trip, I only associated big designer labels like Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana with the fashion industry, but now I know that there is an entire line of supply chain that has a part in the creation process of a Gucci sweater or a Dolce & Gabbana leather bag. Tomorrow is going to be a big day of travel for me! Ciao!