6 May 2022

APLF Dubai: Mission accomplished

A Stimulating Fair

The 2022 edition of APLF, the world’s leading trade fair in Leather and Fashion concluded successfully on 1st April at the Dubai World Trade Centre after three days of intense energy filled business activity and events. APLF was held in conjunction with Fashion Access and Materials+. This was the first time in 35 years that the iconic leather fair did not take place in its hometown Hong Kong which has been under Covid-19 restrictions for the past three years. For the organizers it was important that APLF continues its mission in serving the Leather and Fashion industries by reuniting and reenergize them. Some of the decisions that may have the most significant impact on the leather sector worldwide are traditionally made at APLF and this year was no exception. The high stimulation was felt everywhere during the three days of the show.
A total of 463 exhibitors from 34 countries and regions participated in the APLF fair. Italy was the main exhibitor with 127 companies represented. While Asia is the main destination market for Italian manufacturers (accounting for 30% of the total country’s export for this sector), Italy is the second largest global leather machinery supplier to the UAE, showing how Italian advancements in technology in the manufacturing of leather is highly regarded in the UAE and how much Dubai and UAE are becoming an even more important trade hub for this sector.

Brazilian leather was also intensely represented thanks to the participation of 31 Brazilian companies, exhibiting leathers with the support of the Brazilian Leather Project. Traditional leather countries such as France, India and Pakistan were also present. The fair also attracted first time participants such as from Uzbekistan in the leather sector and Georgia and Zimbabwe in the finished products sector. They were joined by over 6,000 buyers from 88 countries and regions.

These ‘special’ circumstances were due to the ongoing  pandemic and the consequences on the leather industry were outlined at a press conference held by David Bondi, Director of APLF and Senior Vice President at Informa Markets Asia and Grace Lee, Event director of APLF. The current Russia-Ukraine conflict, which has an increasing impact on the global economy was also discussed.

 

“The Russia-Ukraine conflict could change the relatively optimistic outlook following the recent recovery from the pandemic, which could be skewed by inflationary pressures sparked by the rising energy costs”, warned Bondi. However, he reminded everyone that APLF had taken place in adverse market conditions in previous years, the most recent one being the 2009 global financial crisis.

To officially mark the opening of the event, a ceremony was held on the morning of March 30, which additionally and fittingly inaugurated World Leather Day, an initiative conceived by the Leather Working Group and Leather Naturally who joined forces to promote and defend the leather industry against unwarranted attacks.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Alessandro Lamura, Italy’s Deputy Trade Commissioner of the United Arab Emirates expressed the gratitude and relief of the leather industry towards APLF for making the show happen against all odds.  “This is an opportunity to meet new customers and Dubai may be the steppingstone to new markets, including Africa”, he said.

“This is a restart – in the largest global event in the sector. APLF 2022 should guide the leather market in the coming months and should enable the industry to assess the rest of the year”, Rogério Cunha, from CICB’s Trade Intelligence, was quoted to say.

Buying Groups

Indeed, in addition to India’s Council for Leather Export and a Vietnamese Buying Group (who are regular visitors to APLF), notable first time buyers included delegations from the Federation of the Palestinian Leather Industry whose visit was part of a development plan to improve the industry of leather and footwear; as well as from the Leather Export Council of Egypt and Pakistan’s Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Concentration levels are at their peak during the breakfast meeting APLF had organized for more than a hundred VIP buyers and exhibitors to connect in a relaxed environment. This was a unique experience for buyers to discover suppliers they might have missed on the exhibition floor. As anticipated, the outcome was very productive, according to the participants.

A Wide-ranging Programme

 

As in previous editions, the fair was preceded by a leader summit, this year the conference, co-organised with International Leather Maker (ILM) conference, focus was the Future Trends in a Post-Covid Leather Industry. 

The three following days were punctuated by a series of well attended seminars held on the exhibition floor, notably Lanxess’s update on Biocides in the leather-making process; UK’s University of Northampton’s highlights of the increasing importance of the relationship between higher education and industry; Anne Liberati’s insights and selection of sustainable materials; and Leather Naturally’s Metcha Forward outline of the latest leather trends.

Trend setting is a customary features of APLF, demonstrated by the Leather Trends Space which displayed various innovative types of leather; the Materials+ Hub which displayed components and advanced materials with a focus on sustainability and innovation.

Colour trends were illustrated by Olivier Guillemin’s display of his Spring–Summer collection whose theme this year is Desire. Desire for everything fashion and colour but also, after more than two years of restrictions, for freedom and escape.

The fair would not have been complete without the traditional Design-A-Bag Competition which rewards young upcoming design students; and the Best-of-APLF Awards which rewards participants in six different categories ranging from Ethical Leather Collection to Best in Marketing. These trophies are highly prized by their recipients who can use them as a marketing tool, as attested Jerome Verdier, Director of the French Tannery Arnal: “Our future plans are to get closer to the Fashion world and this award, for Best Luxury Collection, will help us to reach our goal”. 

Another highlight of the programme was the second edition of the Global Footwear Executive Summit which discussed digitalization, pricing strategy and sustainability.

Sustainability: a Strong Signature

During the critical stages of lockdown when global trade came to a grinding halt, the leather industry did not stay idle. It not only proved its resilience but also took the opportunity to develop new strategies. Sustainability and environmental issues which had become more important in the last decade took center stage as leading tanners launched branded sustainable leathers and introduced social responsibility into their corporate business model. Hence, sustainable certifications such as the highly coveted Leather Working Group and ISO have become key credentials.

One of the most important levers that the leather industry can pull to reduce its environmental impact is closed-loop recycling, a system which is now starting to be rolled out at scale, promising to limit the waste in raw materials, or instead, using it as a resource. As these technologies mature, companies start embedding them into the design phase of product development, the ultimate goal across the industry, from machinery to finished products being to reach full circular economy.

Dubai or not Dubai?

Where will APLF take place in 2023? This is the question in everyone’s mind. In Hong Kong, in Dubai or in both? While the majority of participants highly enjoyed meeting face to face and while the Dubai show was considered a success, the organizers will study the survey the participants were asked to fill in and weight the pros and cons. Given the sheer size of the fair and the amount of planning and organization it requires, the suspense should be over soon, definitely before summer.

However, it was highly appreciated by the industry that APLF pressed the re-set button and gave leather players the chance to reunite as well as to widen their horizon: exploring new markets; discovering fresh opportunities; getting closer to fashion and understand its needs were part of the reasons why many participants attended and the vast majority was satisfied by the outcome.

About APLF

We bring leather, material and fashion businesses together: an opportunity to meet and greet face to face. We bring them from all parts of the world so that they can find fresh partners, discover new customers or suppliers and keep ahead of industry developments.

 

We organise a number of trade exhibitions which focus on fashion and lifestyle: sectors that are constantly in flux, so visitors and exhibitors alike need to be constantly aware both of the changes around them and those forecast for coming seasons.

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