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Galaktion Volkov
Galaktion Volkov

Buying Leather In Italy

A post shared by Negroni and Spritz (@negroniandspritz) on Feb 28, 2018 at 3:50am PSTFrom these roots, a thriving leather production spread that continues across Italy in everywhere from tiny hill town artisan workshops to urban designer boutiques, and Italian leather is considered the best in the world still today. There are important rules of thumb to keep in mind when considering purchasing a leather jacket, bag, or pair of shoes during your next trip; however, to ensure you are choosing a top-quality piece that will last for years, here are a few tips and guidelines:

buying leather in italy

One of the most important details to pay attention to when buying leather in Italy is the quality of the leather itself. Leather is made from animal hide, and hide is composed of a series of organic layers that are mechanically separated during the curing and tanning process. The resulting types of leather are classified in a number of different quality categories:

Pieno fiore (full grain): This is considered the finest quality leather, made from the outermost layer of hide and prized for being both soft and durable, retaining a pleasant leather scent, and developing a deep color and natural sheen over time.

Cuoio di grano (top-grain): This middle category of leather is also made from the top layer of hide with the natural imperfections and pores sanded out to create a more even finish. Most bags and wallets are made of this quality of leather, and the difference between pieno fiore and parte grano or cuoio di grano is subtle and not always clearly marked.

Vera pelle (genuine): This is the lowest quality of leather, made from the inner layer of hide left over after the two higher grades of leather layers have been stripped away. Most inexpensive leather items are made from vera pelle or vero cuoio, often consisting of layers of low quality leather glued together and dyed to resemble more prized leather.

Smell: Leather should have a pleasant, earthy aroma that smells rich and natural. Any leather that smells of glue or chemicals is not of very high quality and will not stand up to the test of time.

Look: First, check the color. Highest quality natural leather has a deep golden brown color and natural grain that gives it texture and depth. Dyed leathers add variety with fashionable colors, but be sure that they are not being used to mask lower-quality leather. Examine any unfinished edges to see if the dye has been absorbed through all the layers of the hide, or just painted on the surface. Second, check the stitching and finishing. Stitches should be small and regular, and any finishing touches like zippers, buckles, or studs of the highest quality.

Artisans: There are a surprising number of independent leather workshops still open for business across Italy. Florence, of course, has the highest concentration of these specialized ateliers, but you can find them along the narrow pedestrian lanes in towns on the Amalfi Coast, on the hilltops in Umbria and Tuscany, and even in the quiet calle of Venice. These master craftspeople make stunning, one-of-a-kind shoes, bags, gloves, and other accessories and you can often watch as they cut, sew, and hand-finish their pieces. If you are looking for a custom bag or a pair of shoes made to order, try an artisan workshop.

Money: Italian leather is not cheap, especially quality Italian leather. That said, the finest Italian leather shoes, bags, or jackets can last for years, so make for an excellent investment. Be prepared to spend a bit, but remember that buying directly from an artisan or small, specialized shop is where you will get the most bang for your buck. Luxury brands add a hefty fee for that prestigious name on your bag or jacket, and larger, retail shops generally carry industrially produced goods of lesser quality.

As the Italians will say, the selection of stores and markets offering leather jackets in Florence "è embarassante" which literally means it is (almost) embarrassing. And although I wouldn't say it is embarassing - I would venture to say, it is overwhelming.

If you are looking for a leather jacket - then you will be delight in the selection to be found in Florence, as it will literally appear unending. If you are looking for an Italian leather jacket - the search will require you to be a bit more discerning.

And, of course, there is always the question: if it is not Italian leather, does that mean its not good leather? The obvious answer is NO, but it does mean it is not the quality of leather that one associates with Italy and, therefore, may not wear as well as you had hoped when you made the investment.

It is near to impossible to give you a list of the best places to buy a leather jacket - because your options are almost endless. As you roam the beautiful streets of Florence you will be bombarded with stores, market stalls and enticing boutiques that offer jackets. In my quest to provide a bit of groundwork, I turned to the natives and I asked them... if you were to buy a leather jacket, where would you go? And some of the answers surprised me. I thought most would have that tiny hidden secret boutique, but actually the results proved that they prefered the classic stores which are practically status symbols in Florence.

Bemporad (Via Calzaiuoli 11/15/17/B Firenze ) is located in the heart of Florence. Another classic, established in 1885, they have been serving the well-dressed citizens of Florence for over 100 years. Originally carrying only a menswear collection, they have long sinced opened their doors to the fairer sex as well. Their collections concentrate on sleek, classic lines and include handcrafted leather garments to sportswear. The store actually carries a wide range of items from everyday clothing to accessories - and, of course, classic leather jackets. Not only do they have designer fashionwear but they also have a wide selection of their own styles. When I asked why he suggested this boutique, Enrico - who has worked with supplying leather jackets to an international market for over 15 years - explained that he knows where they have their jackets made and they are Italian suppliers that create with criteria.

A recent addition to the Florence market of leather boutiques is Benheart, a brand that is just 5 years old. But its growth in this short amount of time, with two stores in Florence, another in Rome, Verona, Tokyo and Milan, shows the popularity and high-quality of the artisan, trendy jackets, shoes and accessories they have on offer. Learn more about Benheart through our interview with Ben, one of the brand's founding partners.

Opportunities to buy leather in Florence are vast, from luxury boutiques, to raucous street bazaars, to private workshops and sidewalk trinket sellers. Read on to ensure that you go home with an authentic leather souvenir to treasure for a lifetime.

Florence and its region have held a reputation for quality leather production for hundreds of years. However, prior to the Industrial Revolution, preparing animal hides to make leather was considered particularly unsavory work. In medieval Florence, many of the tanneries, or conciatori, were located along the Arno in order to facilitate washing away the mess and unpleasant smells that characterized the trade.

By the 1300s, some 1,500 shoemakers were already working in the city. About a third of these settled in the Oltrarno district. Cobblers made shoes for local consumption, but also participated in a lively export trade, forming the roots of the Tuscan international leather fashion industry that still thrives today.

In addition to apparel, leather specialists were also an integral part of the book trade. They produced parchment sheets made from cured sheepskins. Leather covers were crafted to protect the books and provide a luxurious and beautiful exterior. Leather workers also pioneered techniques for armor and ceremonial dress, and worked with saddle and tack makers to create horse regalia for festivals and everyday use.

In the early twentieth century, the Florentine leather industry was propelled to new heights. A Florentine named Guccio Gucci, son of a leather artisan, turned his back on the family business as a young man. Working in a series of menial jobs at the Savoy Hotel in London, he carried stylish pieces of luggage for wealthy visitors. Gucci returned home to Florence in 1921 and refocused his family on designing fine leather luggage and accessories for a wealthy international clientele. He soon brought the leather goods of his native city to international fame as one of the most recognized names in the fashion world.

Today, the tanning and working of leather is much more complicated than it was in the days of those malodorous medieval tanneries along the Arno. In fact, the production and sale of leather products in Italy is an extraordinarily complex topic that touches culture, history, fashion, economy, and the very core of Italian self-identity. In order to grasp this complicated world of Italian leather, it helps to think about the industry as divided into three tiers:

Imagine that you could take an animal hide and examine a cross-section of it under a microscope. At the top layer, you would see the pores of the skin, scars and imperfections, hair follicles, and the hairs themselves. Directly beneath, you would find thick, densely woven tissue with many overlapping fibers. Below that, you would see another layer of fibers, less dense and laid out in a more horizontal pattern. Today, most hides go through special machines that skim off each of these individual layers. Determining leather quality is based on what happens next:

When it comes to leather bags and apparel, things are not always what they seem on the surface. You may find a reasonably priced bag on the street whose quality equals an item in a high-end boutique. Other times, the same merchant may sell the same bag in a pelletteria and also in a market stall, at two very different prices. Sometimes a merchant may sell both industrially and artisanally made pieces in the same location. 041b061a72


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