What Is Vegetable Tanning?
Posted on November 17 2020
In recent decades, the leatherworking industry has caused many environmental hazards across the globe due to its chemical nature of material production. This dire state of affairs prompted scientists to refine both new and old solutions to manufacturing practices that will mitigate the negative effects on our ecosystem. The result of this extensive research pointed to vegetable tanning - an organic form of tanning the leather that uses a mixture of bark extracts, organic dyes, and fat liquors instead of chromium salts and other metallic based solutions.
Vegetable Tanning VS Chrome Tanning
In fact, vegetable tanning is no recent discovery. This method has been used for thousands of years, since the dawn of civilization. If you need any proof, a fully-preserved leather shoe was recently found in Armenia and it is estimated to be 5,500 years old - 1,000 years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt!
Just as the name suggests, this traditional method’s efficiency relies on vegetable tannins from oak, mimosa, or chestnut barks as well as other plant tissues found in nature. The only downside to this method is that it takes time, lots of it. The fashion market demand was barely met until newer and faster tanning methods were invented in the mid-19th-century. Such discoveries led to the use of minerals such as chromium sulfate that not only prevents skin decomposition by binding chrome salts to the collagen protein but cuts down production time drastically.
Today, chrome tanning is responsible for more than three-quarters of leather production worldwide. Why? Because in less than a day, this method can produce flexible water-resistant leather that maintains its glossy finish throughout its “lifespan”. It is low-cost, efficient, and produces high-quality materials, but the use of heavy metal minerals during manufacturing wreaks havoc to our environment as a direct consequence. So what is more important - short-term economic gains or long-term conservation for future generations to come?
Benefits of Veg-tan Leather
One of our goals is to actively assist in preserving nature and advocating responsible hide production, which is why we have chosen vegetable tanning as our primary source of materials. Although creating this type of organic leather involves soaking hides in baths filled with concentrated tannins over a period of several months, the end result is a heavy substance perfect for designing belts, leather bags, shoe soles, and more. In short, it guarantees you will have an heirloom in your hands that you can pass down from generation to generation.
Other benefits and features associated with this type of leather are:
- Thickness and resilience
- Traditional production methods
- Feels “alive” to touch
- Smells “earthy”
- Develops patina with use and age
The Traditional Process of Making Vegetable Tanned Leather
During Spring, oak bark is stripped from the trees and dried for 2-3 years. Later they are broken down in 2-3 inch bits and chips, which provide that necessary raw material for the tanning yards. To extract the tannins, oak bark is mixed with cold water so imagine you are making a big cold-brewed pot of tea or coffee. When the tan strengthens, the hides are dipped from one pit to the other on a weekly basis, each stronger than the recent. After about three months, the hides are done with the strongest concentrations, layered on top of one another like sandwiches, and left in the pit for another 9-12 months.
Yes, truth be told, this is a very slow process working with tree bark tannage, but the end result is hard-wearing leather with exceptional tensile strength. Most importantly, no minerals or heavy metals are required to make them, sparing both people and nature of health and environmental hazards.
Vegetable Tanned Leather Bags
Most articles we have in store are aniline dyed and made of full grain leather. The hide tops haven’t been buffed, snuffed or sanded to remove any exterior imperfections and the grain guarantees fiber toughness and durability. With no surface finish for protection, the leather will age naturally, retaining its natural unique look.
We offer an extensive collection of gallant vegetable tanned leather accessories for both men and women to choose from. Whether you want to look elegant like a pro for your business trips or want to rock a fashionable messenger bag that will get heads turning in the street, we have everything you need to suit your tastes. Our handmade briefcases are more than just an expression of a high-end lifestyle - they can be your personal heritage that blends craftsmanship and artistry like no other. Check out our leather goods and let us know what unique design tickles your fancy.
The whole world is putting a lot of effort to go green and the leatherworking industry is not exempt. If you want to make an eco-friendly choice - vegetable tanning goods are definitely for you. Yes, chrome tanning also produces sleek supple materials that are also very durable but they do not possess that signature mark, feel or smell that only nature can provide. We say to you: Your briefcase is your everyday companion so wear those usage scars and marks with pride. Aging gracefully is a matter of confidence. Own it!
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