March, 20th. Interview with Luca Fumagalli, La Conceria
GreenLIFE. Considering the constant threats of alternative materials, misconception about their natural quality, animal welfare and environmental concern, among other challenges that leather is facing, what in your opinion are the prospects of this industry over the next 10 years?
Luca Fumagalli. This question unlocks wider possibilities. The last few seasons have been undoubtedly complex for the leather industry. But I strongly believe it is highly unlikely that it will be totally replaced at some point, in favour of other materials. Hide has always been there and will always be, because it is a recycled material and, as such, its availability will always be linked to the global consumption of meat. As long as meat is eaten, there will be a structural need to re-use its waste, hides, which if prevented could lead to major environmental repercussions.
GL. How do you expect the global tannery industry to evolve in the near future?
LF. Leather will probably experience erratic economic cycles more often. Operators will probably be asked for a more comprehensive quality approach along with a different and more flexible stock management, but leather is going to have always its market share. Precisely for these reasons, leather produced by Italian tannery industry will consolidate its leadership in particular when referring to high and premium range of customers. We can say that the future is already at our doorstep. Which means that with the growing trend of control by big players over the supply chain, multinationals and brands are taking over tanneries and private equity funds entering the fray with majority of shares in larger tanning groups. Some of the latter are also consolidating their position by acquiring competitors or subcontractors, and so on. It is a transversal trend both on dimensional and geographical levels. It allows to fortify companies, often with a great tradition but small in size, which otherwise would struggle to remain competitive. However, in this situation, it must be taken into account that there will be a market selection. Geographically, thanks to its continuous upgrading, Italian tannery will evolve as the core for luxury and high-end supply chain.
GL. How is leather considered in your culture?
LF. Leather is undoubtedly considered as a high status, valuable, natural and coveted material. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of ignorance in relation to leather as waste generated from the food industry process, which is recovered and enhanced in a circular approach. This ignorance ends up in mass opinion, easily manipulated by those who promote alternative materials by attacking hide in a misleading way which must be tackled and eroded from the mind of the people by educating the masses about the benefits of this process in the long run.
GL As a media representative, how would you recommend tanneries to communicate with the people? And what would be the key message to establish and maintain goodwill in the general public towards leather?
LF. In order to do so tanneries must communicate their way of working with hide from procurement till the finished product in a persuasive and widespread way to the masses. This communication must be emotive and informative. They have to do it on multiple levels as this is a novel way of approach in which consumers must be targeted. In this sense, the “Real Leather is Real Sustainability” campaign, which has been launched by UNIC – Italian Tanneries association, hits the mark with its messages, its visuals and the questions it poses to make consumers reflect on some “truths” that for an insider (not all, unfortunately) is common knowledge. When it comes to public opinions, these truths are perilously not obvious. Therefore, a meticulous work of cultural promotion of leather and industry is needed, which can spread a general awareness of how something beautiful can be crafted out of otherwise waste hide, and then transformed into an environmentally friendly asset of high value.
Luca Fumagalli began his career as a sports and news correspondent in 1989 in a local Italian newspaper. In the year 1999 Luca was offered an Editorial post in La Conceria the reference magazine of the leather and luxury sector where is now working in the capacity of the Managing Director since 2016. Luca has also published a few children’s books and the book “Donatori Di Musica” (Curci Publisher). Also, Luca Fumagalli is an avid fan of music and photography.