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A Sustainable Approach: Vegetable Tanned Leather

We are committed to sourcing the most beautiful and sustainable materials for our handbags and small leather accessories. That’s why all HAF bags are made exclusively using vegetable-tanned leather, a sustainable alternative to the ubiquitous chrome-tanned leather.

In order for leather to become leather, the raw animal hide needs to go through a process called tanning. The vast majority of leather you see in stores today is chrome tanned. It’s a fast and cheap method invented in the 19th century to allow for the mass production of leather goods: in only two to three days a raw hide becomes leather that’s then ready to be dyed, finished and shipped off to be made into handbags, shoes and clothing.

However, speed comes at a price. Chrome-tanning uses a mix of toxic substances and heavy metals – mainly Chromium - which pose a danger to both the environment (when waste material is dumped into the local water supply), and the people involved in its production (who come into close contact with the chemicals).

In contrast, the vegetable tanned leather we use for our bags is processed slowly by skilled craftsmen, over the course of weeks, using a recipe of natural ingredients like tree bark and plant extracts to tan the leather. The end result is an environmentally friendly product, which retains all of its natural beauty.

Our tannery is a member of Il Consorzio Vera Pelle Italiana Conciata al Vegetale (The Genuine Italian Vegetable Tanned Leather Consortium). Not only does this label guarantee quality and Tuscan origin, it also certifies that the leather has met strict chemical and physical standards. The Consortium monitors the vegetable-tanned leather production cycle to ensure a low impact on the environment.

Beyond sustainability, we choose to use vegetable tanned leather because with think its beauty is unparalleled. Our bags are designed to show off the beauty of vegetable tanned leather. We don’t line our bags because we don’t need to – the leather is strong enough to stand on its own without backings and reinforcements that would normally need to be hidden behind a lining. The beautiful suede back of the natural leather makes a perfect natural lining.

Vegetable tanned leather is full of character, it’s robust, durable and the quality is undeniable. Each skin is unique, and changes over time, developing a patina with regular use. Most importantly, the leather ages beautifully, so instead of wearing out over time, our bags only get better.

Although vegetable tanned leather is becoming more widely available, most in the industry (around 90%) continue to use toxic chrome tanned leather because it is faster, cheaper and produces a more malleable leather that’s suited to handbag and clothing production. But that’s not what HAF stands for. At HAF we refuse to compromise on beauty, quality or sustainability.