You found the perfect Italian leather handbag. Its shape, color, and style are exactly what you were looking for. But, how much do you know about the material it’s made from?
Leather handbags are not all created equal. They can be made from cowhide, calfskin, goatskin, lambskin, sheepskin, or a number of other hides sourced from various regions.
Different hides have different strengths and weaknesses and, therefore, are used to make different products. Italian leather, and especially calfskin, however, is the preferred hide for most high-end handbag makers.
Cowhide (from adults) is the strongest and most durable animal hide. It’s commonly used in shoes, belts, and protective gear, like biker jackets.
Calfskin (from juveniles), while also durable, is thinner, softer, and more malleable. Visually, it has fewer imperfections than cowhides, which can be marked by scars, insect bites, or stretch marks.
Those qualities, and its ability to age beautifully, make it a top choice for high-end accessories like gloves, wallets, and luxury leather bags.
Italy has a tradition of leather-making stretching back nearly a millennium. Florence, in particular, has been the epicenter of the craft. Craftspeople there learn their skills in dedicated trade schools under the direction of old world masters.
That long heritage and infrastructure has resulted in a wealth of generational knowledge about raising cattle and hide selection. Tanneries in the country, meanwhile, use precise, time-tested manufacturing techniques to guarantee hides will have a smooth, even thickness, to allow for straight, neat stitching.
Most importantly, while the global leather industry today is increasingly technology-driven, Italian artisans rely on a blend of high-tech innovations and human expertise and instinct. That leaves their leather with a soft, pliable quality and a signature earthy scent, making it perfect for the intricate handcrafting of luxury products, like women’s handbags.
Environmental sustainability is more important than ever. For that reason, leather substitutes have recently hit the market. Bamboo, cactus, and pineapple are just some of the new “vegan leathers” to appear.
While these new options are a great development, they don't replicate the experience of real leather. The feel and smell is different. And vegan leather doesn't develop the same beautiful patina that real leather does as it ages. The ability to recreate realistic-looking pores and other textures, meanwhile, is limited due to the material's lower pliability.
Vegan leather is also not entirely without environmental concerns.
Faux leathers are reinforced with additional materials to give structure and malleability. Those materials are often synthetic films that make up as much as fifty percent of the overall product.
Genuine leather, in our view, is a better environmental choice because, unlike synthetics, it’s biodegradable. A new technology, patented last year in Italy, allows for 75 percent biodegradability of leather. Ongoing research is aiming to make the remaining 25 percent biodegradable, too. Still, that remaining portion is not nearly as harmful as synthetic waste.
Certainly, there’s still work to be done in the leather industry to ensure better environmental sustainability. But investing in quality leather products that last decades, or even a lifetime, is one of the best ways to reduce waste.
That’s why, at Nantív, we source only the best kind of leather from reputable Italian tanneries that adhere to cruelty-free animal practices, strive to improve biodegradability, limit chemical usage, and conserve water.
Meanwhile, we have faith the industry will continue to evolve and that Nantív will be a part of that evolution. We’ll continue to tweak our processes and sourcing based on new research and developments.
Those values are reflected in our current handbag collection. Each bag is meticulously designed and handcrafted in Florence by old-world artisans who obsess over the smallest details. Our bags serve a variety of needs, lifestyles, and body-types. The VITA is a large leather tote; TIV is a medium-sized crossbody; EVE is a sweet, little satchel; and VINT is a one-of-a-kind bucket bag.
The leather, of course, is Italian.
Love and flow,