The 33rd edition of APLF starts today, 29 March 2017 and its focus has been modified to meet the changing needs of the fashion industry. The fair is now officially called APLF Leather & Materials+.
Since its inception in 1984 APLF’s vision and philosophy has been to move with the times. The Organisers were aware that the main driving trend for footwear and garments worldwide was now sports casual or athleisure, and so the decision was taken after last year’s fair to revamp its traditional components sector to cater to this trend by renaming it Materials+. The Materials+ hall is located on Level 3, Halls 3FG of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, opposite Fashion Access, leaving APLF Leather in Halls 1A - 1E as per previous years.
The leather exhibits and their supply chain will therefore be unaffected by the relocation of the materials and components sector but there will still be synergy between the two sectors as leather and synthetics come together to manufacture much top range sports footwear.
This time last year leather was still recovering from the hangover of record high prices reached in September 2014 and demand had suffered as designers and manufacturers turned to cheaper oil-based synthetic materials to replace leather and thus protect their profit margins. The sector that maintained and even increased its demand for leather in 2016 was the booming automotive sector in which global new car sales reached an historic record of 88.1 million units sold.
One year later leather appears to be coming back into favour with both designers and manufacturers as the crude oil price has risen by around 37% to US$55 / barrel from the US$40 / barrel ruling at the time of last year’s APLF. In fact, renowned commentators on the leather industry are for the first time in more than three years seeing some “green shoots” in terms of leather demand from footwear manufacturers. As David Peters of DLP Advisers from the US states in his latest market commentary; “We are optimistic that 2017 will be the turning point in shoe leather demand as more brands are finding ways to re-invent leather in footwear”.
With auto sales also forecast to continue rising globally this year and new car sales in China predicted to hit almost 30 million units from 28 million sold in 2016 (+5%), the leather industry could in fact be in for a “terrific year” as Peters enthuses in his commentary.
Countries that know they could be negatively affected by the new trade policy of the USA are already taking measures to offset this possibility and be ready for any such eventuality. Mexico, for example, will have a larger presence at APLF Leather 2017 as tanners look to Hong Kong once again as a port of entry into the China and ASEAN markets.
APLF’s primary role is as a business platform where contracts are negotiated and signed; discussions take place on stands and in the aisles about the industry. Acquaintances are renewed that are so vital in an industry that is essentially a “people’s business”.
There are many factors in the backdrop to APLF 2017. The immediate task of the leather industry will be to actively market leather and educate upcoming designers about its beauty, quality, flexibility, biodegradability, sustainability and variety.
Examples of new products and leather can be seen each year in the Material Trends Space which will be located right at Hall 1D Concourse. This should be enthusiastically visited by designers and manufacturers seeking inspiration, ideas and colours for upcoming fashion seasons.
In combination with campaigns such as LeatherNaturally!, APLF Leather can play a pivotal role in highlighting leather’s undisputed qualities and provide educational fringe events at the fair in the LeatherNaturally Club where renowned experts can present on topics relevant to the industry; specific seminars such as the Sustainability in the Leather Supply Chain Conference and the Global Footwear Retail Conference.
The multifaceted and hence integral nature of APLF events allows it to support and promote the global leather industry by actually being part of it.
Features of APLF Leather & Materials+
The APLF Leather fair was sold out two months before the event takes place and so far 24 group pavilions have confirmed their participation at what is more than ever the Meeting Place for the Global Leather Industry.
Overall there are 800+ exhibitors from 46 countries and regions at APLF 2017 and the Organisers expect over 16,000+ international and local buyers visit the fair.
The Organisers extend a special welcome to a new exhibiting country at this year’s trade fair – Uganda, which includes five companies that will exhibit their leathers and leather products. Uganda will now be present for the first time as a national unit and represents a potential international supplier of wet blue for tanneries to turn into crust and finished leather. The group is present under the guidance of the Uganda Leather & Allied industries Association (ULAIA). The Organisers thank Mr Ralph Arbeid for his endeavours in facilitating Uganda’s presence at APLF 2017.
Of special interest to the manufacturers and designers that visit APLF will be the revamped components sector now called Materials+.
The revamp of the components and materials sector was necessary so as to serve the booming sports / casual or athleisure trend that are dominating fashion especially for millennials in the Americas, Europe and Asia. The Materials+ hall will be characterised by a unified open stand system as preferred by international fashion buyers predominantly in white symbolising innovation which corresponds to the scope of the fair and is a visual representation of its motto Experiencing the Future.
There will be a Trends Village which may help inspire designers and at the entrance to the Materials+ hall, there will be a welcome desk for buyers, displays of advanced materials, networking opportunities, a WiFi hotspot and a customised service to help buyers identify suitable suppliers to fulfill their needs.
Fashion Access – Asia’s leading fashion accessories fair
In March 2017, Fashion Access will bring into focus athleisure or sports fashion, a trend that continues to gain strength, particularly amongst Asian youth.
The athleisure trend has been and is still be driven by millennials (consumers born in the early 1980’s and also labelled Generation Y). In the case of China, its active wear / athleisure market is booming driven by a cultural shift towards fitness. From 2014 to 2015, China's sportswear market grew from US$23.9 billion to US$26.6 billion, according to Euromonitor Mintel. In 2015, the market grew at 18 percent. “It is reasonable to forecast the market growing to about US$32.81 billion by 2020,” says Matthew Crabbe, Mintel’s director of research for Asia Pacific.
In recognition of the importance of the designer fraternity Fashion Access will feature a new section at the fair called Design Street that is made up of new and up-and-coming fashion brands primarily from Asia.
“Design Street”, an area promoting design creativity primarily from Asia, mostly Korea and Hong Kong. It showcases the latest collections of fashion accessories and small leather goods by young, upcoming designers. New this year are Asia Spot, L.T.L.Craftsman of J Motif Co., Alice Martha and General AD. Not to be missed if a buyer is seeking originality.
Fashion Trends Space for Fall-Winter 2017/18 & Material Trends Space for Spring-Summer 2018 – both of these areas are inspirational to designers and help fashion buyers make purchasing decisions based on the styles and materials presented.
Fashion Avenue, a section within Fashion Access dedicated to brands, features over 40 up-and-coming brands from different parts of the world including Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Korea, Madagascar, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand and USA.Debuting this year are Sea and Ocean, Skyking Creations, Daniela Moda, Leaves Co., Raw Create, Flink Korea, Extra Leather, Mintsa and Bravohandbags.
Seminar Programme & Other Activities
Featured trend forecasting seminars: This year APLF is delighted to welcome back David Shah, Publisher and CEO, Metropolitan Publishing BV, Netherlands whose seminar is entitled Design Challenges in a Changing World. With so many changes happening simultaneously in a challenging world, David Shah will review the past and project his audience into the future during his much anticipated presentation. This is a not-to-be-missed “happening” from a presenter renowned for visualising the future.
Another featured seminar - Athleisure Trend - Embracing Healthy Living and Well-being is presented by Charlotte Delobelle of Carlin Creative Trend Bureau in response to the growing Athleisure movement which is associated with a new way of life. Athleisure trend is a global lifestyle, which combines wellness, healthy eating and active urban living. How does this movement renew the codes of fashion and accessory? What impacts is produced for the leather sector?
“Moving Toward Sustainability” is a program launched by APLF and supported by CTC designed to help exhibitors at APLF Materials+ and Fashion Access become compliant with the environmental measurement standards and requirements set by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition or SAC, the apparel, footwear and home textile industries’. This March, CTC returns with a seminar on How to Demonstrate Progress towards Sustainability.
With the continuing strategic collaboration between UBM and Alibaba B2B, APLF and Fashion Access 2017 exhibitors are given an additional digital experience through the Alibaba.com Exhibitor Showcase, an Online-to-Offline-to-Online (or O2O2O) Sourcing Platform. Through the Alibaba.com Exhibitor Showcase, all participating exhibitors are given online product and company showrooms to showcase up to 50 products each, allowing buyers to search and view their listings, contact the exhibitors before the exhibition and place orders online during and after the exhibition. Since the launch of this sourcing platform on 24 January 2017, it has successfully drawn the attention from overseas buyers.
The synergy between APLF Leather, Materials+ and Fashion Access in conjunction with educational seminars and conferences will ensure that APLF is a completely rounded event serving the leather, footwear and fashion supply chains by being an integral part of these industrial sectors.
For more details on the trade shows’ agenda, please refer to event schedule of APLF Leather & Materials+ & Fashion Access in APLF mobile app/ exhibition guide or visit www.leatherfair.aplf.com / www.fashionaccess.aplf.com / www.aplf.com.