The Responsibilities of Manufacturing | Leathers
“As the daughter of wartime parents, it’s in my upbringing to use up leftovers, waste nothing and repurpose as much as possible.”
But second-hand shopping and making a meal from an empty fridge is relatively superficial and small scale and, as a business, we have been looking at our responsibilities and aims in regard to consumption, waste and ethical use of human resources. We are certainly not perfect, but we are working on it.
In an attempt to give in-depth information in what we see as our key areas of influence we are going to give separate attention to each subject over a series of newsletters and blogs.
Leather bags are where we began, and we have built a reputation for rich and pliable vegetable tanned leathers that age beautifully.
The age-old tanning process slowly steeps hides in liquids containing tannins. Tannic acid, is a naturally occurring chemical with a bitter taste and brownish colour. It’s found in tea, grape skins, leaves and fruit skins, while tree bark it is the most common source in the vegetable tanning process. The raw hides are not considered leather until they have been through the tanning process, which permanently alters the protein structure. It’s a very smelly business and is the reason that leather workers have been considered ‘unclean’ and tanneries plied their odoriferous trade on the outskirts of towns.
The tanneries that we use are mostly in an area on the banks of the River Arno near Florence and are part of a consortium that guarantees standards. In turn their raw materials are supplied from farms in northern Europe to ensure European standards of animal husbandry.
Veg tanned leathers can be biodegraded and returned to the earth.
Leathers require special skills and techniques to work with and we aim to bring out the best qualities of each. Straps and belts are bevelled waxed and polished and seams are tapped out by hand to make them sit well. Of course, each skin is different and the skill of cutting pattern pieces from an uneven shape with possible marks and scratches is only learnt over many years. The veg tanned leathers with a natural finish, for example dyed and waxed, remain somewhat light sensitive and will darken and become browner over time. The contact with your body or clothing will gradually polish the leather to a patina that will attract stroking, accompanied by oohs and aahhs.
If you want to learn more about leather and sustainability we recommend: