In the field of handbag fashion three countries have become dominant players in design and manufacture. France, China and Italy together hold pride of place in this part of the leather couture world.
Historically by reputation the world's best quality leather comes from a single region in Tuscany, Italy. Located between Pisa and Florence, the Pelle Conciata Vegetale in Toscana (Vegetable-Tanned leather of Tuscany) holds sway for three main reasons:
- the cowhide from which the majority of fashion handbags are made comes from cattle bred on open pastures. The hides are as far as possible without blemish - no marks, no scars to speak of.
- The hide is 'full grain' meaning that the full hide is used, not hide that has been split into a thinner product making it lesser in grain.
- The tanning process is controlled by long time tanneries using vegetable based tanning materials.The outcome is a leather that is of the highest quality and meeting the most demanding standards.
The leather is described as Genuine Italian leather because it is not only real leather - the cowhide has been processed in Italy and in such a way as to meet the world's most demanding standards for a couture product. Genuine Italian leather is at the pinnacle of leathers and is the natural choice for the couture handbag brands.
Muddying the waters
Unfortunately some countries allow products to be called real leather when in fact they are not the real thing.
However in countries like New Zealand and Britain the law requires that only leather made from cowhide can be called real or genuine leather.
The name faux leather or false leather refers to material that may look like real leather or is bonded leather fibre but in fact is not real leather at all.
As a result reputable designers and manufacturers go to extreme lengths to protect the image and name of their product range. They want their customers to know that their handbags are real leather as in genuine Italian leather for example.
Manufacture of Handbags
Most of the handbags sold by the couture brands are now made in China. This started in the late 1990's and is now an established practice.
The brands generally feel comfortable letting people know this fact as they now ship their Italian leather to their Chinese factory of choice where people highly competent and experienced in their trade make high quality handbags at a highly competitive price for the particular brand.
There are very few exceptions to this practice. Hermes is one such example - their bags still being made in France, Spain and Italy.
Dana Thomas, "Deluxe", Penguin Books, 2007 (Comment on rear cover, "Dana Thomas shows how far illustrious houses have moved from their roots. Thomas witnesses how these 'luxury handbags' .....")
On the Come & Shop website there are a number of Blogs that cover the handbag topics of cowhide selection, Italian leather manufacture, the role of Paris fashion houses in shaping fashion, and the now massive involvement of China in handbag manufacture.
Blogs worth reading to find out more are:
- Where are real leather handbags made? The rise of China
- What are the essential features of a couture handbag?
- How to identify a genuine Bella Charis real leather handbag
- The making of a luxury real leather handbag
- Would you love to have a luxury real leather handbag?
- Leather - real or artificial - how can you tell?
- Be part of the Bella Charis™ experience
Also the 'About' page of the Handbag section on www.comeandshop.com.au covers similar ground.
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Jan & Dean