Why is Italian Leather the Best in the world?

Do you know why Italian leather is the best in the world? The short answer is that the Italians, quite frankly, are the best and the most skilled leather craftsmen. There is no other country in the world that can match the quality, and this is largely due to the very skilled artisans, the quality hides used in their products and their dye making process. This translates into quality that is incomparable to any other country who produces leather products.

One of the reasons Italian leather hides are superior to others, is that they use all-natural items such as vegetable and plant-based extracts to dye their leather (e.g. tree bark, vegetable tannin) and this results in a much stronger and longer lasting leather product.  This natural process (vegetable tanning) takes much longer to complete as it is mostly done by hand which can take as long as two months. 

Unlike Italian leather, almost 90% of the world’s pelle leathers are tanned by chrome (mineral tanning).  Large mass market factory produced products, often use this chrome chemical-based process, to dye their hides.   Chrome is a solution that is mixed with chemicals, acids and salts (chromium sulphate).  Large scale factories prefer this method as it is a shorter and less costly leather tanning process than vegetable tanning.  It also costs a lot less, however, the lower quality is readily apparent as well.  Even some of the larger and most expensive designers today are using this chemical-based process and they are mostly sourcing less expensive hides from the Asia, India and other European markets that are known for lower quality and thinner hides. 

I recently visited an Italian designer store, who sells high end luxury handbags in Toronto and has franchised stores around the world. I found out that their leather hides are sourced from Germany and the Asia markets. I would never have imagined, an Italian designer brand doing this.  However, it really goes to show that is not feasible or efficient for any grand scale manufacturer to use vegetable tanned Italian leather or a handmaking process to develop quality goods.  Make sure to ask a salesclerk where their leather is sourced from and if a natural dying process is used.  You will be hard pressed to find authentic, handcrafted Italian leather sourced and dyed in Italy.  It is ironic that luxury brands are charging a small fortune for lower quality goods.  Only about 8-10% of leather goods produced around the world, source Italian leather that has been treated with a naturally-based vegetable tannin solution. 

It is also important to understand the difference between hides.  For the purposes of this article, I will make reference only to what is considered to be the best type of Cow leather grains:  full grain and top grain leather.  Full grain leather refers to a leather that has not been sanded and still shows the leather’s natural marks and imperfections.  It is considered the best and most robust leather grain and it can stand up to durable use.  Top grain is considered the next best leather tier.  It can be described as a softer leather, more stain resistant and thinner than full grain leather. Most Italian leather purses are made from top grain and full grain cow leather.   A lot of Italian made products use cow leather as it is much thicker than other types of leather. They also use a lot of goat and ostrich leather to create their products as well.

What does this mean as an output for a quality product?  Basically, if you have purchased an Italian leather product, you will have the best quality leather to start with.   Your product will only look better with time and it will be easy to clean.  Italian leather will be more durable and long lasting and generally, it should be water resistant, but this will depend on the type of leather.   Most products will withstand everyday wear and tear.  However, if you do mark your purse, in most cases, it can easily be wiped away.

Each piece of Italian leather will be unique and one of a kind,….even if you purchase two of the same items e.g. a purse.  No two leather products will look the same as each hide will have some slight imperfections

The Italian economy has been hit hard by the influx of mass-produced products that are made in Asia and other parts of the world.  Large multi-national companies can create leather products more cheaply and with lower quality materials, as people have now become conditioned to believe a designer brand label is more important that the assessment of the quality and workmanship.  As well, there is very little access to real Italian made goods.  Over the years, luxury brands have adjusted their business model to source and create their products where it is cheaper and more efficient to obtain and produce its goods for the mass markets.  Yet consumers are paying more and more for lower grade leather products. 

As the world markets changed, Italy has never compromised its leather making process or the quality of their goods they produced.  It is incredible that markets throughout Italy offer higher grade quality products than the most expensive luxury brands.  This is why Belmore Boutique was created, to give more access to real quality and authentic Italian goods in Canada and the online market. You can get an authentic and higher quality Italian product without paying thousands of dollars.  Consumers are so used to marketing claims and commercialization that I think they have forgotten to question or look closer at these claims.   In my opinion, the Italian brand represents quality, beauty, artistry, innovation and creativity. I can honestly say that I can’t find a lot of branded products today that really stand for any one of these qualities.  Just because a well-known logo is slapped on a product doesn’t mean it denotes quality or supports the marketing claims it makes.  Has marketing gone so far as to suggest that carrying/wearing a certain brand defines our place and status into society, even if the value and quality are not there?  Shouldn’t the quality of a product offer an intrinsic value for what you pay and represent the beauty and individuality of a person?  Take a closer look, the next time you are in a store that sells leather goods and you may be surprised by what you see.