A guide on how to Find Your Leather and Tannery Partner

Embarking on the journey of choosing leather is a significant step, whether you're a seasoned leather enthusiast or just delving into the world of exquisite materials. Your decision should be grounded not only in personal preferences but also in sustainability and trustworthiness, ensuring that the leather comes from a reputable tannery.

Unveiling the Art of Selecting Premium Leather: Your Comprehensive Guide

Exploring Tanneries: Your First Step Towards Quality

The initial quest involves finding a reliable tannery that aligns with your project. While a preliminary Google search might offer some insights, a more immersive approach is attending the Lineapelle fair in Milan, a biannual event featuring a plethora of Italian and international tanneries. Navigate the trend area, assess materials for aesthetics and tactile qualities, and compile a list of potential tanneries for further exploration.

First Screening: Tailoring Choices to Your Brand

The next phase involves a meticulous screening process based on your brand and product specifications. For luxury, natural-look leather goods, focus on tanneries working with calf leather in Italy, France, or Spain. Conversely, if you're in the mass-market sector, consider Northern Italy (Veneto area) or Asian options like China and India. Align your choice with your production location for optimal results.

Tannery Specialization: Matching Expertise with Your Product

Recognize that tanneries may specialize in footwear, leather goods, or apparel. Ensure the selected tannery aligns with your product type, addressing specific requirements like lightweight properties, animal type (sheep), and treatment methods.

Asking the Right Questions: Navigating Tannery Selection

Once you've identified potential suppliers, dive into a series of targeted questions to gauge their suitability for your project. Divide these inquiries into crucial categories:

1. Tannery Set Up: Assessing Reliability and Sustainability

Understand the nature of the tannery's operations, ranging from vertical production (starting from rawhide) to potential leather traders. Seek traceability assurances, especially when dealing with leather from areas prone to deforestation.

2. Certifications: Ensuring Industry Standards

Inquire about certifications, with a focus on recognized international standards like the Leather Working Group (LWG), UNIC (for Italian tanneries), and CSCB (for Brazilian leather). Delve deeper with the Sustainable Leather Foundation (SLF) certification for comprehensive insights.

3. Water Treatment: Mitigating Environmental Impact

Given the wet nature of the tanning process, scrutinize the tannery's water treatment practices. European tanneries usually adhere to stringent regulations, but exercise caution when dealing with leather from regions like Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India.

4. Chemicals: Prioritizing Sustainability

For a more in-depth analysis, inquire about the types of chemicals used, accreditation by Zero Discharge of Hazardous Dyes (ZDHC), and the adoption of biobased chemicals. Some tanneries disclose water and energy usage, contributing to a more transparent production process.

5. Service Level: Ensuring Seamless Collaboration

Don't overlook service aspects such as lead time and minimum order quantity (MOQ). Tanneries like Gruppo Mastrotto and Conceria Faeda, with swift delivery policies and extensive material/colour options, can enhance your overall experience.

Material Matters: Understanding Your Leather

Once satisfied with the tannery's credentials, delve into the specifics of the material:

  • Share your product vision and request suitable articles meeting technical requirements and desired aesthetics.
  • For footwear, ensure the leather passes essential tests like the SATRA flexing test and colour fastness.
  • Understand the distinctions between pigmented and aniline leather based on your product's needs and the end user's expectations.
  • Inquire about biodegradability tests and the bio content of the material, crucial considerations for the product's end-of-life.

In conclusion, strategic planning with the supplier, involving color-level forecasts, can help prevent production delays for high-volume orders.

Published: 14/01/2024


Nicolò Giusti
Nicolò Giusti
BIO: Nicolò is an innovative and sustainable material specialist working in the fashion industry for more than 15 years. His passion for traditional materials but also for innovative solutions brought him to create the Sustainable Academy, a community that supports students, entrepreneurs and fashion companies to be more sustainable and avoid greenwashing.
"I really believe in the power of collaboration. Sharing and learning is the only way we can get to the next level. Why waste time protecting ourselves when we can use it to improve?"