When we decided to start Laiik, we knew we wanted to set our leather sandals and shoes apart by sourcing the highest quality, most eco-conscious materials we could find. With our feet firmly rooted in the birthplace of the ancient Greek sandal, we kicked off our search for leathers produced using the ancient practice of vegetable tanning (no chromium chemicals here, please!). We soon found ourselves in Milan, at one of the largest international exhibitions dedicated to leather - Lineapelle.
Twice a year, the world’s top producers of leather, textile, synthetics and components gather in Milan. There were four (yes, four!) airport hangars full of leather goods for us to explore, and we didn’t quite know where to begin. All we knew is that we were hoping to feel something - to fall in love! We scavenged for hours, speaking to different tanneries, looking at material samples until we finally met Chris, a sales agent representing Conceria Tempesti. We learned that the Tempesti family has been producing naturally tanned leather since 1945 and the tannery is currently run by the 4th generation of Tempesti’s. After meeting one of the owners, hearing their story, and learning about their philosophy towards leather production, we were smitten. We had finally found “the one”. Thankfully, our love affair with them has been going strong ever since.The tannery is tucked away in the heart of Tuscany, between Pisa and Florence. In addition to wine production, this region of Italy has a long history of manufacturing leather, dating back to when the Etruscans settled in Tuscany in the 8th century BCE. That’s a lot of leather experience!
The Vegetable Tanning ProcessThe tanning process begins with the selection of cowhides, which are exclusively a byproduct of the meat industry. Tempesti sources their hides from some of the best European farms in Sweden, Denmark, and Belgium, which have high animal welfare and environmental standards. Once each raw skin has been cleaned, it is transferred to giant tanning barrels that contain a range of natural tannin ingredients such as wood bark, vegetable extracts, and even baking flour. They are then tumbled in the mixture until they are ingrained with the natural dye. To get a glimpse of the full tanning process, check out this video below:
With generations of experience, Tempesti clearly knows how to make beautiful leather, but they also continue to innovate and produce some of the most striking colors we’ve seen. While the process of vegetable-tanning creates rich, deep colors that develop a patina over time, it can also be quite limiting, especially when it comes to light and bright colors. So, we assumed that in using natural tannins, we would be limited in our color choices. We couldn’t have been more wrong! Tempesti have developed new techniques and innovations to produce a surprisingly wide range of colors and finishes for us to choose from. We’re even in the process of creating a custom color (stay tuned for Spring/Summer 2022!).To expand their vegetable tanning practices even further, the owner of Tempesti, Giovani Tempesti, founded Pelle al vegetale, a consortium of 23 tanneries based in Tuscany that exclusively use vegetable tanning processes. The alliance aims to promote environmental protection and provides member tanneries with education around updated vegetable tanning practices as well as access to its facilities.
What sets Conceria Tempesti apart? Their craft, attention to detail, ethos, and the quality of leathers they produce. Most importantly, Tempesti cares... about their people, the environment, and building relationships. Whenever we have a question, Chris and the rest of the team are there to help us. So next time you’re wearing your Laiiks, give a little shout-out to Giovani and the Tempesti family!