1- When buying a piece with the distinction “Italian leather”, know that it was tanned in Italy for sure, but not necessarily made with animal hides that come from that region. In this case, when the animals don’t come from Italian grounds, they are imported from different countries notably Pakistan, New Zealand, United Kingdom, India and basically all over the world!
2- The leather business in Italy is renowned all over the world. Although the worldwide crisis affected deeply the country between 2008-2011, leather, along with textiles and clothing, has been and stayed the 2nd most important source of revenue for the country after the production of machinery and equipments. In 2011, Italy ranked 2nd in world exports of clothing and leather goods after the giant mass producers from China. They also hold 25% of the shares in the fashion market related to footwear which is a very large and important part.
3- The Italians are constantly bombarded from the competitive pressure of low-wage emerging countries. To prevent their exports from dropping, they constantly develop methods to improve their product’s quality without compromising their specialization. Up to now, this has proven effective to stem the tide and to keep their fine leather reputation on the podium. In fact, this pressure from developing countries, although not all beneficial for job losses have been overly large quantity, has positively affected higher-skilled workers in rewarding them with increased salaries and even greater international recognition which in the end is also better for us, the consumers.
4- Leather Trade Fair Shows are held yearly all over the world for merchants to show their products and for potential buyers (manufacturers, stylists and retailers) to meet and compare it all. It is amazing to see how people are so passionate about this fine, raw material and how they are willing to share their history with whoever wants to hear! The master tanners are hard-working, down-to-earth professionals and their knowledge is well worth sharing.
5-In 1994, the Genuine Italian Vegetable-tanned Leather Consortium was put together to ensure that high quality, natural and long-lasting leathers were offered to the world. With their “Pelle Conciata al vagetale in Toscana” (“Vegetable-tanned Leather of Tuscany”) Guarantee label, they regulate, preserve and guarantee the quality of their vegetable-tanned leathers. They even created a product tracing system to certify the quality and origin of the materials which is interesting to consumers that are concerned with animal treatment, as we should all be. The consortium has, over the years, positioned itself as an International organization leading to offerings of leather fashion exhibits, workshops and seminars.
Fun fact: In september 2013 the “Craft the Leather” competition was held in Paris to showcase young designers all working with vegetable-tanned leathers. They were judged on different aspects notably innovation, craftsmanship and aesthetics. The winner of this 2013 edition was a young japanese designer, EISUKE YOSHIKAWA with HIKO MIZUNO college of jewelry in Tokyo. It is very interesting to see that the love for leather has travelled so far!
What needs to be remembered from all of these, is that leather tanning is not just a business in Italy, it is a passion, almost a way of life. Generations grow into that knowledge, they learn how to implement it and make it up to date with new technologies while integrating old world craft methods and THAT makes all the difference in the world! Bottom line, anyone who loves animals & leather should look into having handmade pieces with Tuscany standards because those people genuinely care about each aspect and every piece they make.