In 2018 we made a decision to only use Vegetable Tanned or Natural Leather on our products. Veg Tanned leather costs more and it needs extra steps such as dying and edging to incorporate it into our designs. However, it's the toxin free, long lasting effect of Natural Leather that appeals to us and our customers.
Why Use Natural Leather?
Leather is beautiful. It's a natural product that has been used since man first started working with animal hides. It has properties of insulation, durability and flexibility as well as beauty and character.
We only use Natural Leather and in small amounts to add character and class to our heritage products. Our products are made to last so we use materials that age with character and reflect natural beauty.
What is Tanning?
Leather comes from a once living creature and it starts out as skin with meat stuck to it. So how do we get from one state to another? We tan the animal skin, or hide, and turn it into leather.
Tanning is the process of changing the state of an animal skin or hide to become leather.
The term Vegetable Tanning is derivative of the plant elements used in the process of preparing the leather. It is the tannins, predominantly from tree barks, that the name tanning is derived from.
Tannins are a naturally occurring astringent (meaning it tightens pores and draws liquids out) molecule found in nearly all plants. Tannins applied to the hide bind to the proteins inside the skin and make them less water-soluble and more resistant to bacterial attack. The process also causes the leather to become more flexible.
Leather is created by soaking hides in varying baths of tannins over a period of time; sometimes weeks. It is then baled while wet for more weeks before being dried and prepared for working. The process is more complicated than this but the important thing here is that veg tanned leathers are not exposed to copious amounts of dangerous chemicals used in Chrome and Aldehyde Tanning.
The resulting leather is a natural pale yellow colour (in varying degrees towards red depending on the tanning process). It's generally a thicker more stiffer leather than most people are used to seeing. But it's the first choice of traditional leather workers and saddlers because it's generally tougher and can be coloured by hand to whatever is required by the project it's being used for.
What's The Alternative?
Chrome and Aldehyde Tanning. These two types of tanning are modern processes that produce fast and reliable results using chemicals that studies have shown may be harmful to some people and the environment. Nevertheless these processes are the two most widely used techniques in the world today and are responsible for making over 90% of the worlds leather products. They are fast and they are cheap and that saving is passed down to you, the consumer.
Veg Tanned leather, on the other hand, is neither cheap nor fast.
How do we use Veg Tanned Leather?
Veg tanned or Bio leathers are not cheap. They take longer to make and are therefore a more expensive option. But studies have shown that not only is it better for the environment, it also lasts longer. Jack Stillman bags utilise as many traditional and natural materials as possible including Natural Leather.
Each piece of leather is cut, coloured, finished and placed by hand. Each piece is intended to last the lifetime of the bag and the bag is built for a lifetime of service to you.
We have two dedicated craftsman that work full-time in our leather shop cutting, colouring and edging your leather pieces. From zip pulls to belts and the pockets on our famous Commodore Messenger bag, each single piece of leather is handled multiple times before being handed over to our machine shop.
Our leather artisans also hand-stitch certain products such as our Goose Biker Wallet. Each hole is hand punched and each component is carefully assembled, coloured and dressed. This level of detail and dedication is what sets Jack Stillman apart from cheap, mass-produced luggage.
If you want to know more about our leather processes, start a conversation with us.