I don’t know what it means, I can only assume the “L” means leather. And that was the name of the game at the end of March last in Dubai where I spent 2 of the 3 days it was hosted getting lost amongst the finest leather manufacturers in the world.
Traditionally hosted in Hong Kong, APLF went to Dubai in 2022 after a 2 year hiatus thanks to the coronavirus. Looking ahead, it’s earmarked for a return to HK in 2023 so Dubai was just a fluke. And one that served me as I often don’t get the time to travel to Milan or Paris when these things are hosted so it was a rare treat.
Short story long, it didn’t suit many of the distributors and producers I met. They all had much the same thing to say and that was that their core market was China and that the Middle East on this occasion allowed them to finally get out and show their wares.
Stretched across 5 halls at the World Trade Centre, Dubai, you could get the smell of the leather as soon as you got out of the car. No kidding. It only grew as one entered the building main and long before you reached the badge counter.
All open plan, the largest hall was occupied by mainly Pakistani and Indian producers of ready made leather goods. Jackets, satchels, purses, wallets - the usual suspects. About a dozen Italian stands were there with exemplary shoes and small leather goods. Seemingly this hall was catering for that sort of market. Living in the Middle East for a decade, it was a rare joy to see the Italian ladies from all the booths gather for coffee and (customarily) loud conversation complete with laughter, authentic hand gestures and explicit language. If any Italians are reading this, please, NEVER change!
Halls 1-4 were it was all happening. Generally broken down by country, the exhibition hosted a large Brazilian contingent, some Germans, more Indian and Pakistani tanneries, a nice bunch of Italian tanneries and machine manufacturers. There were a few South African (ostrich) companies and only a handful of British ones, Belgians and Singaporean. I was a bit disappointed with the British showing as there was very little for a country with such a fine
leather producing pedigree.
The jewel in the crown, in my opinion were the French. I’ve spent quite a lot of time in France over the past 25 years of my working life and, love them or hate them, they occupy a very special place in my heart. Unabashedly nationalist and traditionalist, never ones to answer an email or return a call, the laid back, supremely artisan and effortlessly stylish company representatives were so friendly and inviting, they almost seemed like old friends.
Alran, Remy Carriat and Tanneries Roux were just three of the names and where I spend a disproportional amount of time. I was given a breakdown of the next season's colours and how they were chosen. The qualities were exquisite. The feel, texture and scent would have you reach for your wallet there and then. Embarrassed, I asked if they were interested in small fry single artisans like me (and likely most of you reading this) and without reservation, they said "yes, of course". Long story short, whereas any tannery prefers a single buyer of hundreds of hides, there is always some left over, some that don't make the grade, orders falling through or simply a stock catalogue on hand. It is from stock that small guys like us can tap from. Naturally, if a custom colour is desired, it can be done but MOQ applies and other costs. Contacting them is (apparently) as simple as an email AND a follow up one or phone call. Keep it as simple as you can - who you are, types, colours, features and quantities, where you are and how you want to pay. That's it. The more specific you are, the better the service. This is what I was told by each company rep. I've yet to put it to the test but the proof is in the pudding.
Would I go again? Absolutely! however it's slated to be hosted back in Hong Kong next year but if you have a glut of air miles or some urge to see the orient, it'd be the perfect excuse. Having said that, it's likely you'll find much the same in Lineapple in Milan (never been) so that's probably a more viable option for Europeans amongst us.
I really hope this has been informative and lets you know what it was all about for those that thought about attending in Dubai.