Fair’s timing in-sync with world event and completion of China’s environmental clean-up
For its 20th anniversary, ACLE underscored not only the energy in the local market, but also a number of trends in both the domestic and international leather and leather accessories industries. Held one day after the 3rd edition of the World Leather Congress organized by the Taiwanese International Leather Association (TILA) and the China Leather International Association (CLIA) under the auspices of the International Council of Tanners (ICT), it has resulted in the most important combination of events held in China for the leather sector in recent decades, according to Michael Duck, Director of APLF Limited.
The exhibition also coincided with the almost total completion of the environmental clean-up of polluting tanneries and textile mills that started about three years ago in China and which not only resulted in the production of sustainable, eco-friendly, more competitive and marketable leather in China but also encouraged fresh investments in tanning operations. Consequently, several companies from China presented at this year’s fair new products, applications and innovations especially for the automotive and furniture upholstery sectors that have generated most demand for leather in the past three years.
Among these exhibitors, Tingjiang Leather unveiled their chrome-free tanning agent TWT series. This salt-free tanning process, the first of this kind ever developed in China, is likely to open up many market opportunities. Another company, Dawei displayed paint paste and enzyme preparations that illustrate the search by Chinese companies for green tanning solutions.
Italian companies help reduce tanning footprint
The increase of mobility and urbanization means that almost 28 million new cars were sold in China last year resulting in increased demand for automotive leather applications. “Car owners are increasingly attracted by travel experience in which leather will have an important role to play,” predicted Guilia Spinetta, Showroom Manager of Dani Spa, a mid-size Italian supplier for the automotive and fashion industries.
Dani has been developing a process using oxidative liming and chrome-free tanning that enables 95 to 99 per cent of water to be recycled and to reduce the usual lead time of ten weeks required in traditional tanning to six to seven weeks. The shorter production process provides added value as fashion brands look to speed up their sourcing procedure and delivery time. The new process has also enabled Dani to reduce its carbon footprint by 50 per cent, according to Spinetta.
Chrome recovery in the tanning process is one of the essential steps of environmental protection. According to Daniele Bacchi, Environmental Division Manager of the Italian tanning machinery company Italprogetti, 20 to 25 per cent of chrome is wasted and then released into the environment. In order to diminish or even eliminate this waste, Italprogetti’s polishing treatment solution enables the cleaning of the wasted chrome from tanning and re-tanning and to reuse it as pure chrome, resulting in about 25per cent saving.
Do-it-Yourself leather plant
One of the highlights of the exhibition was the LANXESS’ innovative “ReeL” system for resource-efficient production of leather chemicals. The Leather business unit at LANXESS developed this pilot facility in cooperation with the research institute INVITE, with the aim of producing re-tanning agents from collagen-rich byproducts that accumulate during leather-making and from organic biomass. The plant features a modular design and is intended for use directly in situ at tanneries. Practical tests with the project partner Heller-Leder are set to begin in September 2017.The project that cost 2.5 million euros is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
A medium-sized tannery produces several metric tons of shavings a day. Using a production facility leased from LANXESS, the company is able to produce enough X-Biomer retanning agent to meet its needs – directly on site. The byproducts used are recycled without leaving any residues which means no waste or emissions are generated during production. “The goal of the project is to be able to offer X-Biomer to the tanner at a cost comparable to that of procuring commercially available X-Biomer retanning agents,” said Vice President Dr. Dietrich Tegtmeyer, who is managing the project at LANXESS. “The lack of logistics outlay should offset the higher production costs,” he added.
Humanature trends benefits Spanish tanners
Humanature is a trend coined by trend setter WGSN which describes the growing desire from consumers to reconnect with nature. Materials are inspired by nature and animals, with luxuriant organic fabrics and sensual, fur-like pelts and skins. A trend that bodes well for Spanish tanners such as Riba Guixa’s whose products, with their natural range of colours are in sync with this fashion trend. A leader in finished and semi-finished leathers – from raw skins to wet blue and crust of Spanish Entrefino lambskin, the company produces finished skins for international luxury brands, including Hermes which is one of the company’s main customers.
“The market is looking for natural products that differentiate from fake leather,” explains Manuel Rios Navarro, General Director of Inpelsa, a Spanish tanner who has been exhibiting at ACLE for the past twenty years. Navarro says exhibiting at ACLE enables him to keep in contact with domestic Chinese customers. It is the same story from Roger Serra, Sales Manager of La Doma who notices a growing demand for less processed material. A leader in producing lambskin and double-face, La Doma’s new collection includes mineral-like colours including stone, sand, onyx and titanium.
One road, one belt and CPEC bringing Pakistan tanners closer to Europe
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is part of the “One road, one belt” initiative by the Chinese government to enhance geographical linkages through the improvement of road, rail, sea and air transportation system. This includes investments in the Gwadar deep-sea port situated on the Arabian Sea in Baluchistan province of Pakistan. According to the Pakistan Tanners Association’s General Secretary, Muhammad Ali, CPEC will bring higher volume of flow of trade and businesses to Pakistan including to tanners, and will bring their products closer to Europe. Pakistan’s leather industry is currently benefiting from tax incentives from the government that make it competitive compared to other supplying countries in the region.
New exhibitors discover market’s potential and fair’s strong buyer profile
Despite a very slight drop in visitors from Mainland China, the total number was in par with last year as more buyers from ASEAN countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia, and visitors from Japan and Korea visited the ACLE. The number of buyers travelling to Shanghai to source leather and meet new suppliers highlights the importance of ACLE as a business platform for the surrounding manufacturing regions. Crucially major companies and key buyers were all present attending this annual event well-placed to serve both China and ASEAN.
“Our products attracted a lot of attention and enquiries, including potential buyers from Russia, Mongolia and Pakistan. It fits our marketing strategy of starting to export,” says Martin Sun, Director, GSES Leather (China)
Following last year successful collaboration between the China Furniture Association and Vietnamese leather buyers, the organisers invited a delegation of about 20 Vietnamese companies from all sectors to visit the fair and source leathers, materials and machinery. “Vietnam needs to import around 70 per cent of the leather it requires to feed it growing manufacturing process,” explained APLF’s Director Perrine Ardouin. Tac Tran, Chairman of Tuan Viet Shoes, said he was looking for creative materials to answer the growing demand from his main customer, the Italian brand Superga. After touring the exhibition, Vice-president of the Hanoi Leather and Footwear Association, Minh Thu Tran, said she learned about new technologies and materials and found some tools and accessories for ladies shoes while Le Van Thanh, chairman of the sports shoes manufacturing company DongLuc Group, said he was confident he would place orders with some Chinese suppliers.
To grab a slice of the lucrative China pie is no doubt a key goal for exhibitors at ACLE, and the surge of quality buyers at this edition as well as exhibitors’ pleasing results once again proves the potential of this market. Exhibiting for the first time, the UK/China Seaton Leather Chemicals, chose this fair as the launching pad of the company’s “big promotion”, according to the company’s Chief Operating Officer, John Clegg who said he was thrilled with the results and that his vote was to come back to the fair next year.
So the countdown is already on for the 2018 edition of the All China Leather Exhibition (ACLE) which is due to take place from 29 – 31 August 2018 at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre, Shanghai