This week following on from Ken’s visit to Paris I had the responsibility of going to Milan – both of us have been doing market research for the following year, meeting with suppliers, finding new ideas and resources – researching trends etc.
Ken’s raison d’etre in Paris was the sheepskin side of our business and that is where all of the woolskin suppliers gather. My reason for being was mainly the supply of leathers and hair on cow hides – so Milan Lineapelle is the undisputed home for that.
At the spider’s web that is the Rho Fiera there were 6 huge halls devoted to tanneries (4 halls) and hardware and component manufacturers (2) – the Rho Fiera is the largest exhibition area in Europe so I knew I had a long 2 days walk in front of me.
That said, I absolutely love a leather fair – surprise, surprise, given my business!! - I passionately adore nice leather, the feel, the tannage, the dress, the depth of colour, the handle and the skills that have come about turning a piece of food industry waste into something exquisite, fine and malleable .
What I don’t love about Italian leather trade shows are a huge proportion of the men.
I know it’s partially because of my age but now a days in the UK when I enter a room or situation I feel most men look at me and greet me openly and equally in the context of that situation whether it be supplier, customer, friend, volunteer or even just some random - they look and judge me like a stick of rock, i.e. most men are intelligent enough to realise there is stuff going on inside as well as outside – NOT Milan. It is surreal, like being stuck in 90’s.
The Italian leather world is still a male dominated industry, many of the ladies you see working within it are always in secondary roles, translators, assistants or even scantily clad models / gatekeepers of the booths – the more mature ones are obviously the matriarch of the business, at these shows, you would imagine, in a supervisory role to stop her peacock sons from going wayward or committing the business to a testosterone based decision.
When I was sat eating my salami & tomato roll and bottle of fizzante aqua, €10.50 – have I told you, I am coming back to this life as a food vendor!!
Anyway as I am sat resting my weary legs, I started to return the “compliment” -I began studying these “boys” who have never grown up. The uniform (just so you’ll know them in future) is skinny jeans or trousers with half-mast turn-ups that reveal tanned ankles, no socks and shiny leather shoes with pointy toes.
The middle third was less predictable, but mainly based around skinny white shirts or T’s with a linen light weight jacket.
The top third of the “Exquisite Corpse” (draw and foldover game) was back to predictable, big mousse filled hair, that is frequently finger combed. Re reading what I have just written you are thinking young men – Oh no, sadly not – imagine all what I have written and visualise it on a guy anywhere between 40 and 65 – old enough to know better.
So there you are, male market research done, snap judgement made (as they did with me) brushing the crumbs of my salami roll off my chin I am back on the move –excitedly finding new resources and beautiful leathers for next seasons collection – but catching a sideways glance in a mirror – I see what those Italian peacocks have spied, a fat old bird in flatties and a creased top with armfuls of swatches and paperwork, moving from stand to stand, stroking and smelling skin, looking to all the world like a bag lady high on leather – do I care ? Do I hell – cuzz I’ve just seen a beautiful skin on that stand over there – gotta go
PS – I’ll be doing a piece on the trends and directions very soon.