he need for maximum flexibility. The need to continue investing with a broad vision. A market that will find momentum, but not immediately in these first months of the year. These are the three analysis along which, in this interview, the words of Alessandro Iliprandi, owner of Bonaudo tannery and vice president of UNIC – Italian Tanneries, unfold. Three spaces for reflection for a sector, that of Italian tannery, which must keep its qualitative dimension very high and be ready for the restart.
In what market situation did 2021 start?
The one that, unfortunately, was expected since we stopped last March. Closed shops, repeated lockdowns all over the world, the web that helps but undoubtedly does not make up for all physical sales could only make us find ourselves in a market situation like the current one.
Brands report improvements in the quarterly reports at the end of 2020 and speak of optimism: can it be shared?
I believe there will be a recovery in 2021, and it will also prove to be vigorous. But I expect to see it at the end of the year.
A broad vision
How do you work today?
The working model is based on a very strong flexibility flanked by the absolute lack of programming on the customers’ side. Orders arrive and must be delivered immediately. Therefore, it is essential to have a large availability of raw material, and to be able to manage productions with adequate systems.
What do you mean?
The problem is twofold: speed and low volume orders, very fragmented. If a tannery does not have an adequate production structure, it risks not being able to manage this situation. For example, we inaugurated a new production plant in September 2020. We have absolutely not stopped investments because, especially now, we need to have a broad vision. The hope is that, when it restarts in a structural way, there will be recognition from customers for those companies that have taken a step back by continuing to invest in quality, sustainability, service and human capital.
The relationship with digitalisation
How has the relationship between the tanning sector and the concept of digitalisation changed in 2020?
To cope with the contingent situation, we have accelerated the digitalisation of our companies. But we were certainly not starting from “zero”: we were already used to various levels of remote management of our activities. What I see more complicated for our type of product is the digital development of the presentation and sales process, which necessarily requires a physical and tactile approach.
Stylistically, in all this uncertainty, is there a common denominator?
No, there is no single direction: it all depends on the brand and its market approach. There are customers who focus on their own luxury identity, others who want to emphasise the value of craftsmanship, others much more oriented towards solutions related to sportswear.
The priorities of Italian leather
To conclude: what are the current priorities of Italian leather?
Undoubtedly, we need to better communicate the type of work we do. We must give even more value to the quality of Italian leather, a quality that is recognised all over the world. And we must continue to invest in research, innovation and sustainability.
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