Pricey Leather Forces Designers to Get Creative

Between May 2010 and May 2011 rates for domestic leather surged 13.9 percent. Meanwhile in Italy, home of the world’s most sought after tanneries used by most major brands the price of raw hides increased a whopping 40% over the same period. While this increase in price, and for most brands thereby cost, has not dissuaded the world’s fashion elite from seeking out the hottest new jackets, clutches and shoes it has forced designers to begin thinking outside of the box, or bag as it were.

Uri Minkoff, chief executive officer of Rebecca Minkoff, a relative newcomer to the leather handbag industry spoke to Women’s Wear Daily about some of the ways his company is beginning to get smarter in their approach to designing their much sought after bags. “We began to think of little things: should the hangtag be metal or leather, how many studs do we need on a bag, and if there are some places where you have a piece of leather that wasn’t visible, was it possible to get away with a different material,” Minkoff told the mag. Rebecca Minkoff however has taken an interesting approach to the rising prices by actually cutting the cost of many of their best styles by anywhere from 15 to 18 percent, hoping to gain in market share what they loose in profit margins.

Most designers however have gone in the other direction, raising prices to meet the increasing costs of leather. “All of the Italian tanneries are aiming strongly at the luxury brands because we can guarantee the quality they want. They aren’t happy about the price increase, but they’ve sort of accepted it,” says Giuseppe Volpi co-owner of Tuscan Tanneries which supplies leather to brands such as Burberry, Gucci and Trussardi. Many brands such as Furla and Dooney & Bourke have already begun to change tact in the use of the now more expensive leather, cutting down on metal hardware and pursuing more precise stitching methods to avoid waste. Volpi does point out thought that many of the more low end designers with fabrication facilities in China and other low cost labor nations have given up Italian leather entirely opting instead for cheaper alternatives made in South America.


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