Ever wonder why some leathers look and smell so much better than others? It's all down to veg tan and we'll explain what this is and why it is so great below!
Leather tanning is the process of turning raw animal hide into leather which can be undertaken using a variety of methods, broadly categorised into vegetable or chemical tanning. The vegetable tanning process is a technique that has been around for centuries and there are still tanneries today in the UK (such as J&FJ Baker and Co and Thomas Ware & Sons) practising this traditional craft.
There are two key factors that distinguish vegetable tanning from chemical tanning - the liquid type used and the amount of time it takes to create leather. Rather than chemicals vegetable tanning uses gentle liquids derived from natural products like tree bark. From start to finish the process takes up to 14 months and, owing to this gentle approach, the natural fibres of the hide are protected resulting in a more natural, beautiful and long lasting leather. It's also the reason vegetable tanned leather retains a lovely smell and feel. Have a sniff of your leather products to see if you can work out which ones are vegetable tanned - it will be very obvious!
Vegetable tanning is also widely considered to be more friendly to the environment and the health of people working in the tanneries as it uses natural ingredients and man power rather than machines and chemicals (as in modern approaches).
Sadly however, there are few remaining traditional tanneries in the UK today. With such a long and labour intensive production process it is difficult for traditional tanneries to compete with modern producers and so these traditional skills are increasingly being lost. But the benefits of vegetable tanned leather in our opinion vastly outweigh the additional cost and so it is important to make sure the remaining UK tanneries are not lost forever. As consumers we can help to support traditional UK tanneries by buying locally sourced vegetable tanned leather products. Not only will this help keep the tanneries alive but you’ll also end up with a stunning and long lasting leather product!
Here’s hoping that together we can make sure that the traditions of beautiful leather produced at home in the UK continue into the future!