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Nicaraguan leather on the runway to the global market


Bronson, Women's collectionBronson, Women's collectionThirteen small Nicaraguan leather producers got three months of expert assistance this autumn from renowned Colombian fashion consultant Catalina Navia, after which they unveiled new collections for a November 19 fashion show called “A Flor de Piel” (Under the Surface). The training focused on paths to innovation and was made possible through USAID’s Enterprise and Employment project, managed by CARANA.

An expert in shoe and handbag design, Navia has collaborated with leather industries in Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela and directed the Fashion Concepts Workshop at the Colombian Association of Footwear and Leather Manufacturers (ACICAM). Next year, she will be the first Colombian designer to exhibit at Le Cuir à Paris, the world’s leading leather trade show.

“The goal is to support the sector’s small and medium enterprises in the development of designs that are attractive for the national and international markets, through which we hope to see an increase in sales and exports,” she explained.

One of the Nicaraguan designers, Rubén Ordóñez of Bronson, produced just one design for women's, men's, and children's boots for 25 years. Following the training, he said he has now developed innovative, export-quality designs, which could sell for over $150 a pair in the United States.

Calzado Alex, Men's collectionCalzado Alex, Men's collectionOriginal designs are essential in opening doors to international markets—as is creating using all the senses, Navia said: “If I make shoes with fish leather and they smell like fish, I’m heading the wrong way. If I make shoes that smell like bubblegum and they are targeted to kids, I’m doing fabulously. In Colombia, there is a brand from a very big company that makes children’s shoes that smell like bubblegum, lemon and whatnot.”

Marvin Mendoza, co-owner of Calzado Mendoza (renamed SAMRE Shoes), says Navia encouraged them to show off the real leather in their shoes and added, “We also learned the importance of diversifying so we don’t all produce the same thing and compete against each other, but rather do it abroad so we all sell.” Enterprise and Employment organized the training as a part of its plan to strengthen Nicaragua’s footwear value chain. Tanners will also receive financial support to acquire modern equipment and are expected to expand to exotic leathers, beyond cow skin.

Other participating firms were Golmar Shoes, Calzado Giovanni, Calzado Alex, Calzado Rivas, Don Cuero, Fran Pielex, Kuero, Calzado El Puma, Disprocuero, Calzado Emmanuel, and Marroquinería BOP.

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Published November 2010