Brilliant mirror-finish metallics will compete for attention with pale natural leathers in autumn/winter 2004 according to last week's Lineapelle leather and components fair. Also targeted at the footwear and leatherwear industry were hand finishes, natural furs and pony skin, novelty leathers, and animal prints reports Penny Leese.

Brilliant silver metallics are set to compete with pale naturals for winter 2004/05 according to products on show last week at Lineapelle, the Italian leather, accessories and components exhibition.

The trend area displayed two complementary colour stories. "Future in the Past" veers from greys and neutrals though to the indigos and purples, with lacquer red too. Baroque and hand-made finishes create a second-hand, old fashioned look.

The other colour story, "Present Infinitive", also begins with neutrals; but they are warmer, ranging from pale soft cream and camel through natural lichen greens and taking in tans and browns. Metallics, mother of pearl and metallic touches appear on all types of leathers. Highlight colours include a dirty yellow, paprika and tomato soup orange, and light muddy greens.

Overlaid effects and mixes of new and old continue to create interest. Many finishes at the show involved so much hand work that they will be limited to a few couture clients. Some hand-worked materials were not even priced up. Alcantara's pretty appliqué flowers were so new they had not yet been costed, but still got lots of interest from high level buyers.

Casual sporty and masculine leathers have rough finishes. The back of the Flash Crack nubuck from Nova Empresa Industrial is scratched and worn looking, but because it is used on the outside of casual shoes, the smooth, comfortable, real nubuck is on the inside. Effects like this work well when the base colour has a lot of contrast, such as navy outside and powder blue nubuck lining inside.

Glossy finishes look more natural this season; even the patents are soft and overlaid on mottled or printed leathers. Prada's mirror shiny silver, seen in the shops this summer, has been a strong influence on Italian tanners. Mastrotto's version (called Mirror) in both gold, silver and pastels, kept its real leather look with a soft wrinkled semi-cracked finish which moved with the leather.

Metallic sheens are popular in textiles too, with the Italian manufacturers concentrating mainly on brighter gold and silver finishes at the moment. Shiny bright silver was the main new textile colour at MAP, used on moon boots and snow boots.

Pearlised pastels with a whitish sheen are for winter wear; baby pink being the strongest pastel - not really included in the Italian colour themes but perennially popular in the UK and the US. Even rub-offs are glossy. Shiny warm and dark "polido" leathers have a whitish coating which rubs off but the dark under layer gives a winter feel (at Rino Mastrotto).

Wrinkles, pleats and hand folded finishes are sometimes backed onto elastic to hold them in place. Shirred, seersucker bubble surfaces are made stretch for boot shafts, and also backed for bags and vamps.

Frontoni's soft Pu has a bubbled frilled effect, best in black. Accoppiatura Vigevanese has a similar effect in textile, good in metallic darks. They also have a fun wide open net, like 60s curtains, which has been screen printed in patches with iridescent or metallic colours.

Hand finished
Hand treatments are everywhere. Manifattura Di Domodossola showed soft red velvet ribbon interwoven with red leather patent in 1cm bands. Its lanyards are woven in mixes of natural leather, strips of rabbit fur and string.

Naive hand sketches spice up designs, Carbi-Piel's pony skin is decorated with innocent burnt out matchstick men and women, black lines on a natural beige hairy base. Bizzaro has Navajo embossing on natural camel leather; prints that look like woven Indian blankets.

Natural furs and pony skin come back again and again. Worn and abraded effects are spiced up with metallic underlays. Pony skin (actually cow-hair) is cut into intricate Islamic looking geometric patterns and laid onto net by Carbi-Piel.

Soft rabbit furs are catching up with popular lambskin. Rib and cable knits are also more visible and not just for slippers: students at Sarteco used knit rib for casual fashion handbags. Knitted spat type leggings in woolly bouclé by Frontoni were attracting a lot of attention.

Novelty leathers are also attracting more interest - like Orglay's hand painted sting-ray leather, just the size of a hot water bottle. There are strongly defined bubbles all over the leather, extremely raised in the backbone area -looking almost like synthetic paillettes. Orglay used these features as part of the design. Nice eastern masks attracted attention, but subtler black and off white stripes emphasise the natural look of the leather more.

Animal prints are popular too, often mixed and overlaid with other designs. Punk influences can be seen on leathers printed with union jacks and graffiti slogans on top. Crocodile and other reptile patterns are around yet again, with tanners showing masses of variations. The Martinez groups have giant turtle patterns on leather. Croco is no longer novelty - it is standard in all colours and finishes.

Winter warmers
Textiles for winter shoes compete with leather on technical grounds, since many can be warmer and more waterproof than leather. Synthetics are often easier to make in stretch. Dry matt PUs from Siretessile and MAP are ideal for moon boots.

Crinkle patent can be soft and stretchy, especially in PU (Accopiatura Vigevanese) or textile (Frontoni). Corduroy is printed with cute teddy bears and flowers. Woven tartan is back for uppers, and collars (felt look at Bigagli) and also for linings. Geometric patterns are all over, for uppers, soles and linings.

Tanners made the optics look new by mixing prints, like animal with op-art. Cowboy lasts seem to run and run in Italy, and cowboy motifs are strong too. Bizarro's collection of high grade polished leather is embossed with imitation cowboy stitching - looking like cable stitch designs on a mixed-base colour rub-off polished leather.

Heels are more interesting, with lots of metallics and Perspex. Brilliant Perspex heels with inlays came from Italy at the last show but have subsequently been set into motion by the French fashion labels, and continue for next year. Flowers and geometric designs are set into the heels.

Soles for ladies' fashion shoes get more colourways and more shape too. New technology from Prialpas means that the edges of the leather-look (resin) soles can be coloured and curved tight to the upper without sacrificing comfort.

Trends for men
For men's casual shoes, tyre pattern and imitation crêpe soles are the main effects, flowing on from last season. Despite much opposition to the Iraq war, Italian sole makers are still promoting army looks, now with hand finished and painted whitened and used looking coatings.

Trims are often what make the shoe today. Lineapelle is not just about shoes; there are bag and belt suppliers as well. Buckles are big and bold - enamel is popular as are exaggerated op-art looks. Big bold numbers in enamel letters appear on bags, boots and belts. Coloured enamel rings are interlocked with vivid patent leather links for contrast.

New technology means that op-art prints can be used not on buckles and buttons but on smaller items like speed laces (Hawaii). Woolly or felt fringes by Artesa are in fashion, used on boots as well as slippers.

Cameos give a baroque feel but look new as they are made in bronze on a black lacquer base. Flowers are still a popular feminine choice, but they are getting bolder and more fun: Katy's hibiscus petals are made in clear red rubber, while the leaves are still in leather.

By Penny Leese.