Seeking a design for living

Updated: 2012-02-11 07:56

By Yan Yiqi (China Daily)

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Seeking a design for living

Leather and fur products made in Haining, Zhejiang province. The city is striving to use unique designs to reinforce China's standing in the global leather trade. [Photo / Provided to China Daily]

Leather and fur firms in Haining are aiming to raise the profile and the profits of this clothing center

HAINING, Zhejiang - The dusty streets of Haining, a city in Zhejiang province, may not be as grand as the glittering avenues in Paris, the fashion and brand capital of the world and the design home of the global fur and leather trade.

However, Haining may soon give Paris a run for its money with its own set of unique designs and brands that will not only reinforce China's standing in the global leather trade, but also help the nation shed the "imitation" tag.

The leather renaissance, however, does have a French connection. Giving shape to the dreams are a group of designers from Paris, who have shunned big brands such as Gucci, a subsidiary of PPR SA, or Chanel for lesser-known companies in Haining.

Encompassing an area of just 700 square kilometers, Haining accounts for more than 30 percent of China's leather and fur products. As part of its efforts to boost the leather industry, the city has joined hands with Union des Designers Mode et Maison, a French fashion design association, for designer exchange and education programs.

"Haining's leather manufacturing capability and China's big market potential have been the main attractions for us," said Jean-Michel Glasman, chairman of the union.

With more than 3,000 manufacturing companies and more than 70,000 employees, a leather jacket is produced every 1.3 seconds in this city. According to statistics from the China Leather Industry Association, the country's leather and fur industry reported a combined profit of 3.1 billion yuan ($491 million) during the first nine months of 2011, with year-on-year growth of 24.6 percent.

"Though the city's leather and fur products can compete with international players in terms of quality and technique, they still do not have much added value. As a result prices are still low. Fashion is the best way to raise the added value of leather products. There are about 6 million leather products in Haining that are sold as fashion clothes. If we add 200 yuan to each of them, the added value can reach 1 billion yuan," said Ren Youfa, president of Haining Leather Market.

Ren said that although exports have not been so rosy in the last few years because of uncertain global market conditions, domestic demand for leather and fur products has grown considerably. This has also sparked the interest of foreign companies, he said.

"Europe is mired in its debt crisis, and its leather industry has been hit because people no longer have deep purchasing budgets. The European designers need a better and more promising platform to work on, while we need more fashion designers. So to some extent this alliance is a union made in heaven," Ren said.

Though the alliance is relatively new, matchmaking efforts started much earlier.

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