At TITCH we love leather. We’re a Cape Town based design team, making all of our goods by hand in our small workshop. As a designer, I’m inspired by the materials at my disposal. Sometimes the leather comes before the design. When a piece of leather is just too beautiful, I know I will find a use for it someday and I’ll buy it before I know what I’m going to do with it.
Leather and leather tanning has a long history. It’s come a long way from its original form, but the essence of leather and the tanning process hasn’t changed much. Tanning is the process of soaking and treating animal hides so that it’s more durable and doesn’t decompose.
At TITCH we use a variety of leathers, from goat, bovine, sheep and other game skins such as springbok and kudu when these are available. Bovine and sheep leather is a by-product of the meat industry, so it really depends on what’s available. Game skins are a product of the sanctioned culling necessary to protect herd lands from overpopulation. Our suppliers do not support the killing of any animals solely for its skin.
The quality of the leather depends on a number of factors. Firstly, the quality of the animal’s life. A happy, healthy and well-nourished cow produces a skin with better grain quality and fewer insect bites and other blemishes. Secondly, the tanning process determines the quality of the final product. Proper tanning results in a consistent colour and finish that goes all the way through the leather to the suede side, and not just on the surface. You’ll see a poor tanning job when you see the raw edges of leather and the colour is inconsistent all the way through.
Vegetable tanning is the oldest of the methods, using natural tannins and results in tight-grained, firm leather, which we use for straps, while chrome tanning retains the suppleness of the skin, producing a soft leather which we use for our handbags.
The better the quality of the skin used, the less processing is required. We prefer to use full grain leather, i.e. the original texture of the skin’s grain remains. This means that any scars and scratches will not be buffed out, but we believe the end result is a lot more beautiful and has character.
We aim to use only the highest quality of leathers in our production. The better the materials, the fewer bells and whistles needed. Simple design and high quality is our ethos.
All images sourced from Huarache Blog (https://huaracheblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/taller-de-curtiduria-gonzalez-vegetable-tanning-the-best-huarache-leathers/)