Sales of Italian Leather Rise; Focus on Interiors

MILAN — Italy’s leather industry is expected to report a rise in turnover of about 7.3 percent in 2022 to 4.5 billion euros, boosted by a 5 to 7 percent increase in sales to the interiors segment, according to preliminary estimates by UNIC, Italy’s Tanners’ Association.

In a document sent to WWD on Tuesday, UNIC said exports of Italian-made leathers to the U.S. rose by 2 percent in 2022 compared to 2021, while exports to France led gains, rising 33 percent last year, followed by Spain, up 25 percent, and Portugal, up 20 percent. Exports to the U.S. were still down 4 percent compared to pre-COVID-19 2019 levels. Production volumes of Italian leather fell by 2.6 percent in 2022, the document said. The association will publish full-year results at the end of May.

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In an interview with WWD on Tuesday, Fulvia Bacchi, chief executive officer of the Lineapelle leather trade show and general manager of UNIC, explained that a large part of production (70 percent) is usually intended for the fashion industry, while the remainder is represented by furniture and home and transport including yachts, cars and airplanes. Italy’s key markets in this sector include European Union countries, U.S., China and the Middle East.

“For a few years now, we have been organizing meetings, workshops, study tours with important groups of architects in the U.S., Korea, China. As UNIC & Lineapelle Group, we are now much more engaged in the enhancement of this market sector; it is a strategic asset for ‘Made in Italy,'” Bacchi said, adding that though the boom in the home furnishing sector experienced during COVID-19 is stabilizing, “we foresee promising prospects for the future.”

UNIC said that in 2023, companies investing in quality, cost efficiency, customer focus, sustainability and product innovation will face market headwinds with ease, while there are still a significant number of players suffering from a failure to meet modern demands.

Its strategy to boost its prowess in the interiors and home sector also involves special projects, Bacchi said. At the September edition of the fair, Lineapelle organizers will unveil Leather Duets, a cross-industry initiative in which five Made in Italy finished leather firms will team up with manufacturers of interior design to present an installation connected to a theme linked with five color trends.

Leather Duets will be digitalized and exported in video format and showcased at both the New York and London editions of Lineapelle.

“With this idea, Lineapelle aims to emphasize the opportunities of application development of leather for furniture, increasing the attractiveness of its event also to an audience of architects, designers and, more generally, towards operators in the interior design sector,” the fair organizers stated.

Continued growth in building construction and rising disposable income levels in many countries are among the key drivers this year for the interiors sector, in addition to an increased focus on innovative design, modern technologies and sustainability, Bacchi said.

Overall, the 2022 Bain-Altagamma Design Market Monitor said in the near term, companies would “double down on contract business to engage in 360-degree furnishing projects for living, commercial and working spaces, nurturing the premium-ization wave.”

Firms that presented at the 61st edition of Salone del Mobile here echoed this, as the real estate market amps up construction in secondary cities like China’s Guangzhou and Shenzhen and U.S. cities like Austin, Texas; and Miami.

During Milan’s Design Week in April, Lineapelle presented a series of leather modular walls in 25 different colors, inspired by Venetian Renaissance and Baroque paintings. Named “Nabucco,” the exhibit featured modular partitions aimed at positioning Made in Italy leather among architects and interior designers, displayed at Spazio Lineapelle, Lineapelle’s showroom and Milan hub in the heart of the historic 5Vie neighborhood.

The 102nd edition of Lineapelle will take place Sept. 19 to 21 at Milan’s Fiera Milano Rho tradegrounds.

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