Home NEWS APLF 2024: A Global Reunion of Leather, Material, and Fashion Industries

APLF 2024: A Global Reunion of Leather, Material, and Fashion Industries

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By Dipika Chopra 

Introduction

The APLF Leather, Material, and Fashion Businesses Show made its much-anticipated return to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) from March 19th to 21st, 2024. This long-awaited event served as a pivotal meeting ground for global suppliers, manufacturers, and industry professionals, attracting over 10,000 buyers from across the globe. With over 6,00 exhibitors participating, the event scaled the attendance records, underscoring the significance of APLF as a premier business platform for the leather and manufacturing sectors.

Global Suppliers and Manufacturers Converge

The return of APLF to its home base in Hong Kong witnessed a remarkable gathering of global suppliers and manufacturers eager to showcase their latest innovations and forge lucrative partnerships. Exhibitors from around the world presented an extensive array of leather products, materials, and fashion accessories, highlighting the industry’s resilience and adaptability in the face of evolving market trends.

The bustling exhibition halls of the HKCEC were abuzz with activity as attendees explored booths adorned with an impressive assortment of leather goods, ranging from exquisite footwear to high-quality garments. From traditional tanneries to cutting-edge technology firms, APLF 2024 offered a diverse showcase of industry expertise and ingenuity.

Reflecting on the challenges encountered by the leather industry since the last edition of APLF in 2019, David Bondi, Director of APLF and Senior Vice President at Informa Markets Asia acknowledged the sluggish demand in the footwear sector and the surplus of raw hides stemming from increased beef consumption, particularly in China. He shed light on the additional pressures faced by the Italian leather industry due to new environmental regulations imposed by the European Commission. Despite these hurdles, Mr. Bondi noted the resilience of luxury brands, buoyed by strong sales in leather goods and bags, and highlighted the thriving Chinese market, which witnessed remarkable sales figures in 2023, particularly in electric and hybrid vehicles.

Grace Lee, Event Director of APLF Ltd provided insights into the layout adjustments for this year’s event, with APLF Leather relocated to Level 3, while Materials+ and Fashion Access find their new home in Hall 1 on Level 1. This restructuring aims to elevate the fair into a sustainable fashion-oriented event, catering not only to leather buyers but also attracting fashion and interior designers and buyers from younger generations. He emphasized the comprehensive representation of the leather supply chain and the presence of 18 national pavilions showcasing a diverse array of products and services.

HISTORY 

In the early days of June 1984, within the confines of a central Hong Kong car park, the inaugural edition of what would later evolve into the APLF Leather Fair took its first steps. Spearheaded by Derek Dickins, the founder of the fair, it was underpinned by his foresight in recognizing China’s burgeoning role in the global footwear and leather industry. This foresight was rooted in the transformative economic reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping in 1979, famously termed the Open Door Policy. This policy heralded an era where private enterprises flourished, international trade burgeoned, and production broke free from centralized regulations, particularly benefitting the leather and footwear sector. Hong Kong, with its strategic location and the annual leather event it hosted, emerged as the conduit to China, leveraging its status as Asia’s commercial and financial nucleus.

Fast forward four decades, and the APLF Leather Fair returns to its birthplace after a hiatus of five years, aligning with its 40th anniversary of service to the Leather and Fashion industry. Over the years, the fair has continually evolved, mirroring the shifts within the industry. The evolution is evident in its nomenclature alterations, transitioning from the Hong Kong International Leather Fair to the Asia Pacific Leather Fair, and subsequently morphing into APLF Materials Manufacturing & Technology, APLF Leather & Materials+, before finally settling as APLF Leather.

This convergence brings the entire manufacturing supply chain under one roof for three days of intensive business engagements and dialogue amongst exhibitors, buyers, peers, and competitors alike. From raw materials and components to cutting-edge technology, every facet converges to give birth to the finished products and accessories showcased in Fashion Access.

In commemoration of APLF’s 40th anniversary, several associations and national pavilions grace the fairgrounds. Noteworthy among them are the annual meetings of organizations like the International Council of Tanners (ICT), ICHSLTA, Leathersellers’ Company, The UK Leather Federation, Leather Working Group, and Leather Naturally. Additionally, prominent tanning nations extend their support, with national pavilions from Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Pakistan, Portugal, Mexico, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and the USA making their presence felt. Major manufacturing powerhouses including China, India, Pakistan, South Africa, and Vietnam reinforce their presence in Fashion Access.

Over the years, APLF has transcended its identity as a mere trade fair, evolving into an integrated, international event. It now plays host to seminars, conferences, and trend areas, designed to encompass all facets of the industry. Augmenting the traditional trade fair format are a plethora of conferences, forums, and workshops, collectively sculpting a holistic experience for all industry stakeholders.

Key onsite events include the Global Footwear Executive Summit, an annual congregation of industry leaders, executives, and professionals from the global footwear sector, providing insights into the latest advancements in materials, manufacturing technologies, retail strategies, and consumer behaviour. Furthermore, the Let’s Talk Leather Masterclass, curated for designers, offers technical and practical insights into the characteristics and applications of various leather types. Similarly, the Leather Foundation Course for Fashion Professionals aims to equip fashion industry personnel with a comprehensive understanding of leather, covering its tanning process, types, products, care instructions, and testing and certification protocols.

Professional Networking and Business Opportunities:

APLF served as a vital hub for professional networking, offering attendees a conducive environment to negotiate deals, discover new suppliers, and connect with industry peers. The event provided a platform for meaningful interactions and knowledge exchange, fostering a spirit of collaboration and innovation among participants.

Networking events, such as the APLF evening after-show cocktail party sponsored by the Leather and Hide Council of America (LHCA), Dow Chemical, and PrimeAsia, provide a platform for industry players to forge connections and celebrate innovations. 

Buyers and exhibitors alike seized the opportunity to engage in fruitful discussions, exchanging insights on market trends, technological advancements, and sustainability initiatives. The dynamic exchange of ideas and perspectives underscored the collective commitment of industry stakeholders to driving positive change and shaping the future of the leather and fashion industries.

One of the hallmarks of APLF 2024 was the emphasis on sustainability and ethical sourcing practices. Exhibitors showcased a growing array of eco-friendly materials, innovative production techniques, and traceability solutions aimed at reducing environmental impact and promoting responsible supply chain management. From vegan leather alternatives to upcycled materials, APLF attendees witnessed first-hand the industry’s commitment to sustainability and social responsibility.

The optimism and enthusiasm pervading the event were palpable, reflecting a renewed sense of confidence and resilience within the leather and manufacturing sectors. Despite the challenges posed by global economic uncertainties and supply chain disruptions, APLF attendees remained steadfast in their pursuit of excellence and innovation.

“Participating in APLF Leather Show was an exceptional experience for us. We were able to showcase our latest collection to a diverse range of international buyers and industry professionals. The networking opportunities were invaluable, and we made significant business connections that have already resulted in new partnerships and increased sales.” Shailendra, Art N Vintage  

“As a company committed to sustainable practices, APLF Leather Show provided us with a platform to highlight our eco-friendly offerings. The show’s focus on sustainability aligned perfectly with our values, and we received a lot of positive feedback from buyers who were eager to source ethically produced materials.” Vincent So, Wingtex

” The show’s global reach ensures that we interact with clients from various regions, providing insights into diverse market demands and fostering international collaborations.” Ellen Blik, Fullxin Group

“APLF Leather Show offers a comprehensive platform for us to showcase our range of high-quality products. The show’s seminars and workshops were very interesting. It’s a fantastic opportunity to engage with industry experts, exchange knowledge, and stay ahead of market trends.” Mike Chiu, Tengxiang

“As exhibitors, we found this edition of the show to be a bit slow-paced compared to our expectations. However, considering the significant gap of five years since the last event in HK, we understand the initial challenges in re-establishing momentum. Despite the slower pace, we’re grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with industry peers and showcase our latest offerings. Looking ahead, we remain optimistic that the next edition will draw a larger turnout of buyers, rejuvenating the vibrancy of the event and presenting greater opportunities for business growth.” Sushil Kumar Singla,  Discovery Leathers Private Limited

“Participating in APLF Leather Show has been instrumental in expanding our business reach beyond local markets. The exposure we gained at the show helped us attract international clientele interested in our trims.” Sunny, Kansheng Hardware

Fashion Access:

Complementing the main event, Fashion Access, the fashion accessories fair of the 3-in-1 format, took centre stage on Level 1 of the HKCEC. Renowned for its diverse showcase of bags, handbags, small leather goods, footwear, garments, and other fashion accessories, Fashion Access provided attendees with a comprehensive overview of the latest trends and innovations in the fashion industry.

The vibrant displays and avant-garde designs captivated visitors, offering a glimpse into the future of fashion and style. From bold patterns to sleek silhouettes, Fashion Access showcased the creativity and craftsmanship of designers from around the world, reaffirming Hong Kong’s status as a global fashion hub.

Attendees had the opportunity to explore a curated selection of fashion-forward products, interact with industry experts, and gain valuable insights into emerging trends and consumer preferences. Fashion

Access served as a catalyst for inspiration and creativity, igniting conversations and collaborations that are poised to shape the fashion landscape in the years to come.

“Attending APLF Leather, Materials, Shoes, Trims, and Bags Show was a game-changer for my footwear design business. The wide array of materials, from premium leathers to innovative textiles and sustainable alternatives, provided endless inspiration for the collections. Additionally, networking with suppliers and attending trend seminars gave me valuable insights into upcoming styles and market demands, helping me stay ahead in the competitive footwear industry.” Yusuf Osman, Leather Designer

“APLF Leather, Materials, Shoes, Trims, and Bags Show is a must-visit event on our annual calendar. The show’s comprehensive showcase of materials and accessories allows us to source the finest quality products for our retail stores. Meeting with suppliers face-to-face enables us to negotiate contracts, discuss customizations, and ensure that we’re offering our customers the best-in-class products. It’s a vital platform for us to maintain our reputation for excellence in the fashion industry.” Rajesh Kadam, Inc5 

“Attending APLF Show was incredibly beneficial. The show’s focus on leathers, performance fabrics, technical footwear components, and functional accessories perfectly aligns with our brand’s requirements. Discovering new materials and connecting with innovative suppliers allows us to continually enhance the quality and performance of our athletic apparel.” Vikas Bagga, Zoom Shoes

“APLF Show is an essential event for anyone in the leather industry. The diverse range of materials, hardware, and embellishments on display provides endless possibilities for creating unique designs. It’s a one-stop destination for sourcing everything I need to bring my handbag collections to life.” William Wong, HK Footwear Association

“Attending APLF was a transformative experience for my small business.” Anil Sondhi, AKS Shoes 

Conclusion:

The success of APLF 2024 reaffirms its status as the premier gathering for the global leather, material, and fashion industries. As the world emerges from unprecedented challenges, events like APLF serve as catalysts for industry recovery and growth, fostering collaboration, innovation, and business resilience. With record-breaking attendance and a vibrant atmosphere of optimism, APLF 2024 has set the stage for continued success and innovation in the years to come.

Looking ahead, APLF remains committed to driving positive change and fostering sustainable growth within the leather and fashion industries. By providing a platform for meaningful dialogue, networking, and collaboration, APLF empowers industry stakeholders to address shared challenges, seize new opportunities, and build a more resilient and inclusive future.

As we reflect on the highlights of APLF 2024, the event has once again exceeded expectations, leaving a lasting impression on attendees, and setting new benchmarks for excellence and innovation. As the global leather, material, and fashion industries continue to evolve, APLF stands ready to lead the way, serving as a beacon of inspiration, creativity, and progress for years to come.

In essence, as APLF commemorates its 40th anniversary, it stands not just as a testament to its storied past but as a beacon guiding the trajectory of the leather and fashion industry into an ever-evolving future.