In the Footlights

Fashion show
Fashion show

Fashion shows always come with high levels of tension, emotion and lot so of superlatives. It’s like the opening night at the theatre. So much hangs on just a few moments. Many readers of this will have seen some of the University of Northampton Fashion School Show this year as part of the Centenary events at the APLF in Hong Kong. Nevertheless seeing the full show in a packed theatre in the centre of Northampton is still a remarkable spectacle. It was also interesting in that the Northamptonshireleather web site activity has brought a wider range of leathery people into communication and there is less division and separation between the county’s footwear and tannery people. For a while it looked like the shoe trade spoke to the Fashion School and the leather people to the BSLT.

The evening was exceptional and one of the most professional we have seen and the student work seems to move up a grade each year. The bags and footwear were exceptional, so we just need to persuade them to do a few gloves. The winners of all the prizes can be found on the University website.

Those of you in touch with modern technology will know that before and during the event I posted on Twitter with pictures of the Vice Chancellor, Michael Binyon the Master of Leathersellers, and Sateesh Jadhav of Gaitonde. If you are not sure about Twitter then read what Jack and Suzy Welch said about their recent adoption and use of this micro-blogging tool in an article in BusinessWeek “Why We Tweet“.

Michael Binyon was busy two weeks ago handing out the certificates at the Leathersellers Hall Awards Ceremony when John Basford gave the address. He appears to have enjoyed learning in depth about the leather industry during his year as Master of Leathersellers. The highlight was the return from Australia of Darryl Cassingham to receive his MBA degree. Darryl was in the first group to do the new Leather MBA by distance learning, which is one of the new courses made possible by the updating and modularisation of all the courses. The big new thing in education seems to be called CPD (continuous professional development) and the University and the BSLT is well set up to offer old students the updating and advancement needed in a variety of formats to suit.

With the world in recession and the government being even tougher on student visas means that recruiting will be harder this year so if alumni have people to send this would be the time to do it. After a run of good years and with the new staff proving both effective and popular across the board it would be good to keep progressing. And the next stage of the tannery updating is about to get underway.

BSLT Tannery
BSLT Tannery

Minus 30% is the new plus

There is no doubt that trade is tougher than most of us can ever remember, apart from the days when we were trapped in doomed UK tanneries waiting for the cash to run out. There are a lot of good pointers about that we need to keep in mind. Footwear is generally doing OK, luxury leather goods are selling well in China and India, and retail is mostly turning positive. Yet some sectors that have really suffered such as automobile have a lot of restructuring still to come. Two thoughts to keep in mind

  • Minus thirty per cent is the new plus
  • After a recession the world returns to a “new” normal, not as before

Getting to grips with that “new” normal involves more than deleveraging a balance sheet and it is good to be talking to so many people who are working hard on examining how they see the future and how their business structure needs to adapt to match. The Centenary events are proving useful and offer not just light relief but an opportunity to swap notes and check what others are thinking.

One good thing is that the Brand Leather appears to still hold strong positives in the consumers’ mind but there are many issues running around which have to be addressed by the industry. The Greenpeace report on the cattle industry damaging the Amazon Rainforest and the PETA attack on Victoria Beckham and Hermes for using crocodile skins for their handbags are the two most current , even before you start thinking about toxic furniture.

On a final note we have Tony Covington’s Emeritus Professor Lecture coming up on the 9th July. Well worth attending if you are in the area.

Michael Redwood

23 June 2009