Vegetable tanned leathers have been an important tool in the development of civilization for centuries. This material provided an extremely long lasting and durable material that was traded throughout Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and India. Leathers were used across various aspects in life from clothing to binding to livery. Tannery techniques and theories have been handed down from generation to generation as closely held secrets. Today however we are combining those long held traditions with modern technology whereby creating a hybrid craft-art process which can create incredibly beautiful and refined leather products while respecting the environment.
Montana Bag Works Quality and a History of Italian Leather Goods:
Something Montana Bag Works is proud of being a part of is the Eco-Friendly pelle movement or Earth-Friendly leather movement. This process involves using eco-friendly natural tannins which are found in the inner bark of a tree called the vascular cambium layer of chestnut or mimosa trees. It is this type of tannin that imparts a distinct color palette and synergy to the leather product. Imagine the benefit long term to using ground tree bark as the main ingredient instead of harmful chemicals leaching into ponds near a tannery. This is a clear reason as to the ‘why’ its environmental impact is minimized.
Tannin's are natural compounds found in plants with antioxidant properties that assist in growth regulation. They can be extracted from fruits (think grape seeds or skins pressed in must for wines) leaves, sap, or other parts of a tree. Tannin's give wine backbone and mouth feel as it is called in the wine industry. In the leather industry it creates an alluring feel, a distinct smell and a contagious energy. In Italy this process has been perfected over the centuries. Natural tannin's give leather a sophisticated and distinct personality that is immediately recognizable from other production methods. It is distinguishable; the work of human hand.
Natural tannin's are found in that new car smell, the euphoric synapse connection in a small leather retail boutique. It inspires confidence and naturally elicits pleasurable feelings. Normally tannin is mixed with rain, spring, artesian well, or other types of soft water for several reasons but primarily because naturally occurring minerals in water will react adversely to the tannic acid causing burning and discoloration to the leather substrate. This is why the first tanneries in ancient Egypt were located near the Nile River and in Florence, Italy by the Arno river - because substantial amounts of water were needed for soaking, liming and production. Water temperature is also very important because it directly impacts the color palette of leather hides. Hot water can darken the tannin, while cold water lifts leather with the lighter color hues.