Sunday, April 24, 2011

Where is Orange?

 Walking into the trend area of Linea Pelle, the major leather goods show in Bologna, Italy is like seeing parts of a rainbow spread across the tops of dozens of tables.  Pieces of leather in an extraordinary array of textures and colors are arranged to catch the eye of designers, product developers from around the world.

During the three days of the show almost 6,000 people will view this leather rainbow, note the trends, and then decide what color and textures we’ll see in shoes, handbags, accessories in our stores more than a year from now.  (What we see in Bologna in April 2011 will appear in products in the fall of 2012.)  Attendees shop the booths of nearly 1,000 exhibitors for the leathers, zippers, soles, and embellishments that will decorate handbags, shoes and furniture in the years to come. According to a Florence based consultant who manages footwear production (In Italy and Brazil) for a major American brand,  Linea Pelle has become a must to attend for everyone in the business.

A quick glance around the room revealed an array of colors - corals and reds, greens, beige and white.   There was black and bright blue, even a bit of yellow.  But where was the orange?  I walked the entire space looking for the hot color of 2011 – Orange.  Not there.  Orange nice and bright the color of fruit is THE fashion color at the moment. It has been so popular with the designers that the Wall St Journal even did an article, “Orange Crush” about the importance of this single bright color for spring and summer 2011.

But amidst the hundreds of samples displayed, guiding the creative ideas of thousands of people there was only one small sample in orange mixed with dozens of reds, rose and corals.  A hot color for 2011, invisible in 2012. 

It’s a fascinating experience to walk a show like this.  To see leather cut into tiny strips and woven together into fabric for shoes, pillows or handbags. (We saw samples woven in India, finished in Italy).  To see leather smooth and supple, printed to resemble snake or crocodile, or cut in intricate patterns by lasers.  The variety of textures and colors seem endless. Showroom after showroom filled with rainbows of pieces that catch your eye and stimulate your imagination.  What will someone do with that you wonder as you look at a piece printed with a grey/white/black camouflage pattern (the style is named Vietnam) or a plastic seeming sample that has a page of newspaper embedded in it (Can we make you a handbag with the newspaper of the day you were born?).

Attending this show was a special privilege. It was exciting. Overwhelming.  Inspiring.   But as I left I was still wondering – where was orange, why did it vanish? 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Travel is a Collection of Questions

Paul Theroux writing recently  in the New York Times ("Why We Travel") 
proposes that travel, even when difficult or dangerous enriches the life of the traveler.  I agree.  Our voyages near and far, short and long can educate, inspire and refresh us.

But there’s another side to our adventures.  Travel can also exhaust even an experienced traveler.  Some days I think of a trip as a series of questions:  how will I find food I want to eat?   Is it worth it to keep restaurant cards with notes that say “Great Pasta!”, spend an hour searching to find the place again, only to discover that the chef changed and the pasta too?  Which restaurant will delight?   Do I keep all the other cards or not? 

And then there’s the process of getting some place when you decide not to just hop in a cab.  How do I navigate the metro, the bus or the walk?  If I have a destination in mind, and I find my route using a map, directions from Map Quest or Google maps  -  where will I find the names of the streets?  Will they be on a street corner sign?  On the side of a building? Carved in stone?  Written on a metal sign? 

And those queries don’t even touch the basics of how will I open the door to my hotel room?  A traditional key?  A card I slide into an opening placed on the door?  Do I wave the card by a card reader that isn’t identified as such?  (Will my hotel be nice enough to place instructions in the elevator or not?)  And once I’m in how will I turn on the lights?  The TV or radio?  Will there be a clock? 

Outside the room  we wonder how to manage the money that isn’t familiar especially those coins that collect so quickly?  How to tip fairly, to whom and when?  Can we use the words of Italian, French, Polish or Chinese that we practiced at home and be understood? 

Some days travel is an endless series of questions.  But once we find even a few answers we remember the exciting, mind expanding experience that is travel – Adventures big and small that fill our lives with new images, sounds, tastes and knowledge.  Where shall we go next?