Our trip has come to a close here in Milan. Today was our last day in this amazing city, and we depart for the airport bright and early tomorrow morning. The trip has been an incredible experience and I wouldn’t have wanted to spend it with any other group of amazing people. On our last day, we visited the Fashion Studio of LineaPelle, a representative of the tannery industry that is so well-known in Italy. Here we were given a presentation on the leather fair organized by LineaPelle that is held in Milan, London, and New York every year. Here, designers and students can learn about and prepare for the upcoming fashion season. For example, in July they will be hosting the winter ’18-’19 fair. They present the color schemes and designs they have been working on for almost an entire year and a half in advance. They have already released the declassified color sets for the seasons so far in advance. We also had the opportunity to sample all of the different kinds of leathers that are used, along with many of the finishing techniques. Skins from cattle to goat to ostrich to water snake to frog to kangaroo to fish to ray (pictured below) and many more can all be used to make leather products. After this presentation, we had our farewell lunch where we said goodbye to our wonderful guide/organizer Diego. He put up with all of us on this trip, and made it an incredible experience. We then were able to have the rest of the afternoon and evening to ourselves to enjoy the city one last time before we head out.
One thing we were told to think of while at LineaPelle is the possibility for synthetic leather to take over the leather industry. As technology advances, we are on track to develop materials that perfectly replicate leather from other materials, such as wine (which has recently grown in popularity). As engineers, we have the ability to do this (mostly chemical engineers though). Our presenter today does not think this will become a commonplace because synthetic leathers are not as economic and ecological as sustainable leathers. There are more byproducts from the synthetic ones than from the real leathers. Plus, the tanning industry only uses the skin byproducts from the food industry, so there is no waste or harm that way. However, in a world where this was to happen, there would be great changes in the leather industry. There would no longer be a need to raise animals in order to make leathers. We would also lose the realness of the exotic animals that we use today, such as snake, frog, and lizard. In my opinion, this would be a bad thing. I feel the leather industry is one of the more productive and safe industries in the fashion world. They use only the skins and hides of animals that we already raise for food, so there is no harm in this (the exotic animals are not raised for food, but rather bred for leather). I feel that the byproducts and fakeness of the synthetic leather would be something the world does not want to embrace to tightly. If we can get the synthetic materials to a point where they rival the real leathers and do not create as much waste as they do now, then I can see it becoming a good thing, but in the current state, I do not feel the transition to synthetic leathers would be a good thing.
LineaPelle is an interesting company that I did not understand at first. Their industry was hard to analyze. Their business actually comes from the tanneries paying to be represented and receive services from, such as access to the fairs and other services they could not operate without. LineaPelle does not actually sell anything in specific, they only compile the leather tanneries and help to establish the trends of the upcoming seasons. Of course, the major product in this industry would be the leathers. However, I do not see much of competition for LineaPelle. They are really more a consortium of sorts, and there is not a direct competitor. One thing that could be considered competition is the animal rights activists that they sometimes encounter, such as GreenPeace. It’s organizations like this that provide challenges for LineaPelle. Other challenges include managing and organizing these enormous fairs every year. For example, there were 2,000 exhibitors and 22,000 visitors to the most recent fair. Making sure this runs smoothly and that all the leather companies receive all they need can be a big problem if not done well.