The ATEA fashion district – an area for the protection of artisan excellence – was born in 1949 with the handcrafted production of the first leather bags. Even today it represents a point of reference for the Italian leather goods production, capable of conquering the taste and intercepting the dreams of an international audience.
With Francesco Palandrani, president of the Consortium, we tackle the issues and problems that the district is facing today.

How are the companies in the district doing?
“The situation is not so good, which is not surprising given everything that has happened. However, what worries me most is detecting people’s bad mood. Already 4 years ago, well before Covid, we were facing various difficulties, but the spirit was always animated by the attempt to react somehow. Today, instead, I am much more worried because I struggle to find an entrepreneur who wants to roll up his sleeves or, at least, I meet few.
Beyond this submissive attitude, it is indisputable that problems are there and that they are even relevant: when I visit factories (and I visit many of them) I hear little noise, I don’t hear hitting hammers and spinning machines … that silence gives me very bad feelings”.

What should be worked on in the first place to shake the situation?
“In my point of view there is too much slowness in returning to join trade fairs. I consider it wrong. I personally have always participated in Lineapelle and the September edition proved to be a good opportunity to do business.
Those who do not decide to participate in the resumption of fairs are waiting for more precise information, but this does not make any sense at this time. I think it is counterproductive to linger until we have returned to pre-crisis levels. A way of thinking that will never allow the machines of our companies to get back into motion. Every good opportunity to resume business should be exploited more decisively.
If you continue on this slope the restart will be very slow.
I would tell the organisers of trade fairs that it will be essential to think of itinerant events, which approach the territory, trying to overcome the widespread skepticism of this period”.

As a Consortium, what actions are you planning to implement?
“First of all we want to push hard on initiatives that lead our companies to come together, to share risks, to create critical mass for a strong return on the market.
We are doing this by facilitating participation in the e-commerce platform dedicated to our territory that Alibaba has decided to activate. Since our companies are medium-small in size, it is unthinkable to believe that they have the strength to manage such complex processes as landing in online commerce. The ATEA Consortium proposes therefore itself as a hub that brings together products of the various entrepreneurial realities allowing them to further internationalise their business.
With the same spirit we would like to encourage participation in trade fairs. The online shop can certainly help out, but it certainly is not the one that puts the bread on the table in the evening. We have to go back to the fair: whoever has the opportunity will do so with own personal initiatives; for all the others we would like to organise collective exhibitions that allow as many brands as possible to get noticed and increase their turnover”.

What other challenges await you?
“It is likely that we will soon see productive reshoring, especially if we consider the difficulties and costs that characterise the logistics of containers to import products of delocalised productions. Our companies will thus certainly find themselves with more orders. The point is that, at the moment, companies are struggling to find qualified workers. To find a solution to the problem, as a Consortium, already 2 and a half years ago – then unfortunately Covid arrived -, we promoted the birth of a professional school (NAMI – New Academy of Italian Fashion) which, despite the difficulties, is still alive and could help a lot to meet the training needs that the territory manifests. At the moment we are aiming to raise awareness among young people and families on the validity of undertaking a professional career linked to the leather goods sector.
I believe that the challenge is not trying to make bags that are one euro cheaper, hoping to win the battle, lost from the start, against Far East productions. On the contrary, it is essential to create increasingly valuable products, but to do so it is necessary not to lose the know-how that has always distinguished us”.

Recently you organised a conference on the sustainable and digital theme …
“The conference of last 15 November, organised together with Expo Riva Schuh – Gardabags, represented an opportunity to face another urgent challenge. We gathered the members of the Consortium to take stock of the situation and offer everyone the opportunity to better and more deeply understand the meaning and importance of the digital and ecological transition that everyone is talking about. Because it is not easy for a company of 15 employees to tackle such complex issues, or to invest and get involved every time someone comes up with a new keyword. The Consortium’s objective is also to train the entrepreneurial class so that they can find ideas and solutions applicable to their working contexts, help them ground and concretely implement concepts that are often not easy to assimilate”.

What is your last thought?
“It is an incentive for fellow entrepreneurs: in times like these we need to get even busier. It’s like being a father of 5 children who wakes up in the morning and can’t be discouraged, as he has to roll up his sleeves and work hard to be able to feed them”.