Rich and warm baroque leathers and hints of metallic make next winter's footwear and accessories look new and desirable. Leathers have a depth of colour, overlaid and polished finishes, with texture and embossing that make them exciting and luxurious for 2005/6.

The world's main leather fair is still Lineapelle, in Bologna, Italy. Despite the fact that more and more Italian footwear manufacturers are now sourcing abroad - in both Eastern Europe and the Far East - the Italians are still the most innovative in leathers and component design, and Lineapelle is still the fair to visit if you want to see trends for 12 months ahead.

In fact, while domestic sales are relatively stagnant, exports to the Far East have been increasing, in both leather and components.

Colours for winter 2005 include rich browns and dark plums, reds and purples, with natural beiges and muddy greens. Pink is still around but for women's dress shoes is transmuted more often into warm pearly lilac or soft faded tea rose colours.

There are a lot of pale colours for winter, and not just the neutrals. From Mastrotto there is pale pink, bright yellow and a dirty pale blue in the Nappa Soft range. Highlights are less vivid but still in strong contrast, with dirty yellow, mustard and dull green good on sporty shoes, and off-white for the more classic. Loden green is a new neutral, following on from green's popularity the past two seasons for fashion shoes.

Both shiny and cloudy finishes can be combined in the same leathers. For sporty leathers, the second hand and used look is getting more sophisticated.

Summer leather effects carry through to winter with whitened leathers to be rubbed off on darker colours also strong for men's more casual shoes. The effect works well with the heavy lighter stitching so the rub-off effect stands out more.

There are antique looks: Vesta's Marrakech Opaco has a two-tone effect which has a great depth of colour and a rough full grain - almost damaged looking - surface.

Extreme natural embosses, imitating sharkskin and elephant leather are good for boots and bags; Vesta's Coruña York achieves a rich two-tone effect with the cracks in the surface in a lighter colour than the surface grain, and the colour fades a little when pulled up.

Fashion leathers
Functional sporty leathers have become fashion leathers these days. Pittards' very soft leather, originally developed for technical soccer boots, has been much in demand for high grade causal shoes since it is so soft and has a gentle handle.

Metallics are still going strong, but are less brash than before. Metal trims come in warm gold with diamantes, often in a hand-made antique look. Twisted metal thread is embossed onto moulded heels in swirly patterns. Rich coloured leathers have a subtle metallic overlay, so the real leather can be seen through.

The winter looks are now more luxurious with real and fake fur, wool, bouclé and hairy, feathered effects, sometimes mixed together. Accessories made in natural materials such as horn and wood give a warm feeling.

European tanners now have to work hard to compete with lower cost countries; many compete by being more innovative. Vesta has a tannery design department, making high grade experimental leathers. There are leathers which are embossed with baroque patterns, then both hand printed and surface cut or embroidered, in new nuanced colours like shaded and opaque lilacs.

Unusual leathers are always in demand by couture designers, like the perch and salmon skin from Atlantic Leathers of Iceland, which supplies couturiers like Christian Dior. The skins are quite small, but are carefully tanned to be incredibly soft and are finished in a rainbow of colours often with special two-tone and metallic effects.

Textiles and synthetics
Woven and knitted textiles carry through strongly to next winter again. Woolly bouclés from Panatex are used to trims the tops of children's winter boots, while Chanel-type, herringbone and salt and pepper (two-tone) woolly tweeds still dominate for women's bags and boots next winter.

Crespi's tweed is actually a very realistic photo print onto soft jersey or brushed nylon. AT&T's tweedy textiles have large rough weft pieces of bouclé or real fur on a neutral string warp.

Real wovens in soft antique tea rose shades mixed with rich baroque red velvet ribbons created an Art Nouveau feeling at Domodossola. Limonté dedicated a whole section to carpet bag textiles - rich jacquard weaves with large raised scrolling and leafy designs in raised and bouclé patterns - reminiscent of Victorian armchairs.

Animal prints (leopard) are combined with fur to look newer, and are mixed up with croco and reptile leathers. Natural croco leathers come in rich and warm two-tone colours like red, marigold and green by Dolmen, also sampled on casual boat shoes or, more traditionally, onto cowboy boots.

Components
Sporty soles are very much influenced by the currently very popular driving moccasin (with dotted rubber lugs) - for winter there are bigger soccer inspired lugs.

The other very strong theme is inspired by Formula 1 racing driver boots (Puma and Sparco). Soles on sporty shoes are still very low line with rounded edges and also very undercut, often much smaller than the last and single board giving a streamlined look.

For kid's sporty soles, the crepe look in moulded rubber is popular; it has been updated with a whitened or blackened spray finish, which is then rubbed off to give a two-tone effect with much more depth.

Vibram, famous for its classic technical hiking soles, has done much to revive and update the collection. Production of many two component double density sports soles (outer in rubber, midsole in moulded Phylon) is in China now, instead of exporting from Italy as before.

New from Vibram in Italy are more fashion oriented soles - classic Vibram patterned slab soles but very slim, with the traditional lugs moulded in a second colour so that the sole can be black with orange lugs, or even green with white lugs.

Prialpas and Davos have lots of colours on their sheet (Thunit type) rubber solings, not just a natural leather colour. Finishes are pull up, waxy and whitened. Often they can change colour when whitened.

Caster's Chifon sole changes colour when flexed. Caster has a new non-slip sheet rubber sole called Brake. SmartLite moulded microcellular soles by Huntsman are almost as effective against slipping in the wet as in the dry; the cellular natural of the worn surface displaces the surface water and increases contact with the ground.

New from Hawaii is the first non-metal (polymer) safety toecap that meets EU safety requirements for hardness and resistance. The toecap is slightly thicker than normal steel toecaps at the toe. It is proving very interesting to companies working with electricity or electronics who need safety toecaps but cannot use steel due to the static electricity.

The next Lineapelle is from 26-28 April 2005. www.lineapelle-fair.it

By Penny Leese.