Vegetable Tanned Leather - and why we love it
Vegetable tanned leather has been gaining awareness and popularity in recent years for a number of reasons. but the thing we love about it is the way that it changes over time and just improves with extended use.
Vegetable tanned leather is one of the oldest materials that we still use today and the process continues to be relatively similar to what it was thousands of years ago. Tanning methods were first developed to ensure that animal hides wouldn’t rot or deteriorate but instead would be long lasting and could be used to make clothing and blankets.
Vegetable tanning is a natural process that uses organic matter in the tanning process, usually locally available tree bark. The tannins present in the tree bark (also in your tea) preserve the hide and turns it into leather by replacing the water molecules with those in the tannins
To do this the hides are soaked in a series of vats in increasing concentrations usually for around a week per vat before moving to the next. This is often very manual process and can take serval months to be completed. After tanning the leather ready to be dyed conditioned and waxed depending on the desired finish. Because vegetable tanned leather is so labour intensive and takes so long to produce, it is usually a lot more expensive than chrome tanned leather, but the result is a hard wearing leather with life that develops and improves with use.
In the late 19th century a chemical based method call chrome tanning was invented, a much cheaper and faster process for tanning leather that can be completed in just few days but uses a lot of chemicals in the process and has a much greater impact on the environment. The vast majority of leather produced today is chrome tanned.
At Common Goods our vegetable tanned leather products are made using full grain leather sourced from a Japanese tannery that has been producing leather hides since the 1930’s. While using vegetable tanned leather does cost more we prefer to use a material with (relatively) less impact on the environment and we love the way vegetable tanned leather changes and develops over a lifetime of use.