A glance at the shelves in our store reveal intricate pieces of handbags that are unique and special in every single way. Racks of leather jackets hang by the side with every jacket designed to meet the demands of the modern day person. These items are the result of a detailed leather production process that begins long before the hide is extracted from the animals.
The hides used in making Italian leather has to be of the best quality and this necessitates feeding the animals well. Proper diet and nutrition is crucial in the development of high quality hides and that is why we Italians are very particular on what we feed our animals. Our animals are fed on a wholesome diet that is sufficient in nutrients and fibers that meet their nutritional needs. The diet is administered at the right time and in the right amounts for optimal digestion and to prevent deficiencies of iron, vitamins and anemia. This is unlike in other countries where hides are obtained randomly without caring what the animals have been fed on.
Our animals roam on controlled pastures and this means that they are less likely to get scarred or bitten by insects. This is very important so as to ensure that the top section of the hide is less damaged and does not contain a lot of blemishes. The top section of the hide give us full-grain leather and this is the most genuine and the best type of leather.
The hide is then extracted and subjected to a lengthy treatment process that converts the hide into leather that can be crafted and designed into different products of leather. The process is subject to stringent quality checks at every stage of the production process in line with the Italian laws on leather processing. The Italian laws on leather processing are very strict and leather manufactures have to conform to the set rules and regulations or risk being deregistered. Manufactures should ensure that they produce leather in an environmentally friendly manner that doesn’t pollute the environment. These strict policy guidelines ensure that Italian leather is manufactured in the best possible way for the best results possible.
Much of the process is done by hand and this ensures that every inch of the hide is processed to perfection. Other parts of world process their hides with machines. This may be a bit fast but the results are usually not that impressive. Some parts get tangled when they are being processed and therefore they don’t get proper treatment.
The hide is then cured to prevent the tissues from degrading. It is treated with salt and dried even before the tanning process begins. The skin is treated with common marine salt that penetrates into the fibers to aid in removing water from the hide. The subsequent drying removes any excess moisture left and this prevents development of microorganisms and bacteria that might damage the hide. It is then soaked in water and surfactants to remove the salt, dirt, blood and excess fats. Flesh and hair is removed from the skin before it is limed.
LIMING AND SPLITTING
Liming loosens the fibers and allows the hide to effectively absorb the chemicals that will be used in the tanning process. Limed hides are swollen and thick and therefore they can be split into two pieces. This is necessary so as to split heavy hides that are too thick to be used to manufacture leather items. This is a very important stage in leather manufacturing and failure to slice thick hides into small practical pieces usually results in rustic looking leather products that are unsightly and very heavy. The process is performed by a splitting machine in which the limed hide is run against a band blade by two symmetrical cylinders which slices the hide into two layers parallel to the surface. The top part is usually the grain and this is what will be processed to become leather. The lower layer is the flesh splits and this part is usually discarded. Thin hides such as those of goats and sheep are skived and not split.
Most manufactures opt to skip this stage as most of them lack the needed machines, expertise and technical know-how on how best to splice the hides. It is a complicated process and the machines involved are usually very expensive. This is another reason firms opt to skip this step as they try to minimize their operation costs. Customers are advised to be vigilant to avoid being duped by unscrupulous business men who sale substandard leather products that have not been processed effectively. Their products might be cheaper but just as low as their prices may be that’s how poor in quality their products are.
At Luca’s Boutique we stock high quality leather products that are made from hides that have been processed excellently for fine looking products. We are honest people and our products are manufactured in an honest way in line with the industry requirements and regulations.
The material is then mixed with slightly acidic chemicals to de-lime it. This is necessary so as to lower the pH value of the hide and to loosen the fibers for further treatment. Bating takes place next to remove residues of other substances in order to achieve a smooth grain and a soft and flexible leather. Excess fats from the skin are removed in a process known as degreasing. Such fatty acids make absorption of tanning chemicals very difficult and hence the need for this step.
Leather tanning is what follows next. This is the process that turns the raw hide into a stable material (leather) that has a variety of end uses and application. Leather tanning can be done in two ways, chrome tanning and vegetable tanning. Chrome tanning, also known as mineral tanning, uses a mixture of acids, chemicals and salts such as chromium sulphate to dye and treat the hide. It a relatively fast process and it takes about 3 hours for thin skins and a maximum of 24 hours for thick skins and hides.
Vegetable tanning on the other hand uses soluble vegetable tannins solution to tan leather. The ingredients used are natural and pure such as the bark of oak and chestnut trees. This is the most traditional way of tanning hides and it can take up to 40 days to tan a single piece of hide. Most of the process is done by hand and this ensures that every inch of the leather receives proper treatment. The hides are immersed in large tanks and soaked in tanning solutions for a period of time. The finished product usually ends up with a natural shade of brown that is warm and soft to touch. The tanning is done at tanneries with a prestigious heritage of leather tanning. Italian leather is tanned this way and we at Luca’s Boutique are proud to say that many of the leather products sold at our store have been subjected to a vegetable tanning processes.
The output of the tanning process is a wet substance knowns wet-blue. It is then dried and once it is dry and rigid, it is used to produce the different leather products such as handbags, belts, jackets and many other items.
This is a detailed process that can last several weeks. Every step is important and our artisans have to be vigilant to make sure nothing falls out of place. All these factors have made Italian leather products a little bit expensive than leather products made in other parts of the world. Do not shy away from Italian leather products and opt for products made elsewhere because of the price. This is because our products are of the best quality and they are made to last. Products made elsewhere are substandard as their manufacturers’ skipped vital steps when processing the leather either because they lack the expertise or as a way to cut operational costs.