The look of real leather shone through at the recent Lineapelle leather, materials and components fair. Warm and natural colours, hand brushing, whitened surfaces and overlay treatments, embossing and photo-prints were some of the trends picked up by Penny Leese.

Rich leathers in warm and natural colours contrasted with a story of transparency and openness at Lineapelle, the international leather, materials and components fair.

The look of real leather shone through, even in the rich and bright colours. Shades are less acidic, and although green is still strong it has become a richer grass colour. Leathers are also soft to handle.

Hand brushing, whitened surfaces and overlay treatments continue for this summer, but are softer and more subtle. Ecopiel's leather is organically veg tanned, then hand painted on the back with a semi-transparent colour, then whitened on top. The whitened surface is then scratched away to show the base colour subtly shining through. The resulting leather is perfect for unlined summer moccasins.

Black is almost out except for some op-art 60s-type prints and optical weaves where white predominates. The new basics are bone, sand and neutral colours: for both men's and women's casual and smart shoes.

Transparent and open materials give a light summery look. Organza is embroidered with flowers. Clear but milky PVC is used for flower decorations on sandals. Clear coloured meshes and very open weave meshes are used for full shoes or just overlays. Natural materials are also used for to give open, airy looks for bags and shoes.

Leather (or imitation leather) and jute or string in open-work weaves are a popular combinations, in both richly coloured leathers with natural or matching string. Newer are the space-dyed weaves, where pastel or bright space-dyed yarns are woven with leathers or other materials. Space-dyed raffia for embroidery, and space-dyed woven straw plaits were eye-catching at Trendintex.

Hand-finished treatments remain popular. Juan Poveda had computer embroidered bone satin with overlaid flowers. Nuova Piegavelox had fuchsia appliqué flowers on a pre-made satin embossed vamp.

Embossed leathers
Reptile embossed leathers are still in demand thanks to the Prada shoes at retail now. Cobra-look leather has been renewed and updated with richer colours mixed on the skin to create warm graded looks.

Crocodile and alligator leathers (usually hides embossed to look like the leathers) are designed in large format for the fronts of handbags, and for cowboy boots (back again) to make a strong statement. Greens and browns with shaded effects look new here, though metallics are not going away. Other embosses like frog, and fish skin are more subtle.

Textiles look more natural, with shantung and heavy straw weaves at Omnipel, not only in natural and bone shades but also in rich orange and delicate sea turquoises. Some big open weaves have a slight rubberised effect to hold them stable when lasted.

Jute, sacking and hessian are softer, less rough to the touch and often yarn or dip dyed to give intense colour depth. Coronet's linen looked fresh with a soft clear patent overlay. Colours were black, bone, stone, lilac, pink and mint.

Microfibre today has a touch as soft as the finest suede. Alcantara's new treatment included an off-white tie-dyed with indigo, and a natural wrinkle highlighting the tie-dye. Dusty romantic roses are overlaid onto soft cotton backgrounds with a loose, raw edge to create a handmade retro look. Prints continue to be big in both leathers and textiles. Coronet's prints were pretty spots; MAP had small 60s abstract flowers with mesh overlays.

Photo prints are coming through strongly on leathers and as insock coverings on sandals. "Graphic Leather" from Kyoshin of Japan has 50s style advertising on a creamy coloured base making it look more retro and antique.

Trims are fun and even with all the natural leathers on show, glitz and glamour still come up strong. Swarovski has made good inroads into the shoe market and the look is having a knock-on effect. Buckles of all sizes for both bags and shoes by American Supply are full of sparkling stones. Natural mother-of-pearl large sea shells and cowries are used for decoration on bags and belts.

Prints remain strong, although some tanners reported that sales of printed leathers have not been so good. It seems customers prefer prints on textiles and synthetics instead of on expensive leathers.

Graphic flowers on printed fabrics follow through onto the bottoms. Bottom treatments are getting more detailed, as uppers get simpler. PU moulded bottoms have all-over flower and graphic designs, with the print under the sole too. The effect is created with transfer prints - models at RPM showed matching clog looking bottoms with a band upper in the same print. Simpler units, like the Birkenstock types, had printed footbeds in textile or printed leathers.

Nor are leather dress soles so simple. CMC's are hand brushed in a rainbow of brights, and many are then over-treated with unusual effects like bright rubberised graffiti splashes, dark dots or even swirls of animal hair laminated into the bottom.

Monteiro Ribas' resin rubber soles have photo prints of landscapes or cartoon prints underneath, with the edges scoured away to create not just a finer edge, but to show the contrast rubber underneath as a border effect. This effect is used on men's dressy shoes too. Prialpas launched a resin rubber sole in rich colours with a pull up leather effect, which gets lighter at the edges and where the sole is embossed.

Far East
Lineapelle is now looking East, with the launch of Lineapelle Asia later this year. Italian tanners such as Vesta have already set up offices in southern China near Hong Kong to follow up the export of their high grade leathers, popular with trekking and technical hunting boot manufacturers.

Many of Vibram's new sports soles are produced in China today - but all development is still Italian based. The new Vibram soles for Italian production concentrate on casual and fashion looks.

Tech info
Schoeller introduced new fire protection with 4-way stretch comfort by combining modified flame resistant Kanecaron acrylic yarn with natural fibres and elastic components. The flame retardant is anchored into the fibre structure so that it can withstand washing and dry cleaning. It can also be dyed in safety colours.

By Penny Leese.