Vegetable-tanned Leather from Tuscany

Ponte a Egola is known for producing fine leather. Artisans in this Tuscan village have been plying their trade here for centuries, creating some of the world’s most stunning materials for bags, footwear and a myriad of other fashion items. But when it comes to the intricate task of crafting vegetable-tanned leather, one business stands out: The La Bretagna tannery. VOCIER examined over 40 different tanneries across the globe before finally selecting La Bretanga as our supplier for the exclusive F Collection. The decision was surprisingly easy to make.

This tannery was founded by Giovanni Testi in 1961. He was just 21 at the time. With the help of his wife, Giovanni first made sole-leather for women’s shoes. The pair worked seven days a week to keep production on track. But in the 1970s, things changed.

Giovanni wanted to craft leather using centuries-old techniques, which used to be standard practise long before chemical-based methods made production faster and easier. So he switched to vegetable-tanning. And since then, demand for his handcrafted, all-natural leather has grown exponentially. Especially among those who appreciate the true value of timeless craftsmanship.

The difference vegetable-tanning makes

Today, the ancient method of making vegetable-tanned leather is only practised by a handful of dedicated artisans. It’s easy to see why: this traditional process is painstakingly slow and requires an exceptionally high level of skill. But the final product looks and feels far different than today’s mass-produced leather merchandise. Vegetable-tanning gives leather a rich, classic look. Small irregularities that naturally result from being handcrafted ensure that no two pieces ever look the same.

This highly durable material also ages elegantly, developing a patina over time. The depth of colour changes. The textures become more defined. But the exact look of the leather ultimately varies depending on how the bag is used. More exposure to sun and heat, for example, will result in a very different aesthetic compared to a bag that rarely sees daylight. And in the end, the owner is graced with something that is truly unique to him.

A slow, meticulous process

Today’s common leather is relatively quick and easy to create. The majority of products are manufactured using chrome or aldehyde-tanning. This chemical-heavy process can tan animal hides in a just a couple of days. And for some people, a bag or briefcase made with this material will be just fine.

But those with cultivated tastes want a product that’s even more luxurious. Something that’s unique and uncommonly beautiful. And that’s why there will always be demand for vegetable-tanned leather.

Creating this material isn’t simple. It requires following ancient methods used in Europe for centuries, back when vegetable-tanning was the only way to create leather. Animal hides are cleaned, stretched and then soaked in massive barrels — filled with a concentrated mix of plant-based tannin — for up to two months at a time. The process takes incredible skill and patience. Each tannery also has its own special recipe for tannin, which often includes tree bark as a core element.

But you can’t truly appreciate the beauty of vegetable-tanned leather until you hold it in your hand. One American designer, who visited the La Bretagna tannery by mistake, ordered a million square feet of material after seeing a single piece of Giovanni’s hand-stained leather.

We hope you take a moment to experience this product as well. Have a look at the VOCIER F Collection and see for yourself why those who value true craftsmanship select vegetable-tanned leather.

Discover The F Collection

Vegetable-tanned Leather from Tuscany