The Future of Luxury Leather Goods Industry

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Marco Campomaggi prefers natural vegetable tanning over chemical leather processing because it respects the characteristics of leather unlike chrome tanning.

Part II of the Series on Chrome Leather Tanning Investigation. If you missed our earlier story, read it here: Poor Quality Designer Bags to Avoid

We interview Mr Marco Campomaggi, founder and owner of the Campomaggi and Caterina Lucchi S.P.A. group on the natural leather tanning process and where the fate lies for the leather goods industry. 

Marco is a veteran leather goods maker and has amassed 30-years of industry experience. He started his company in the eighties and since then has his line of bags sold all over the world.

The Story of Marco Campomaggi, Inspiration behind The Brand

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
When Marco was a child, he was greatly influenced by his father who was a sculptor. During his high school years, his creativity and entrepreneurship shone through when he started stitching together his first bag from old saddle leather embellished with metal studs. He would then sell his creation to classmates or students on the side-walk after school. Unsurprisingly, the talented young man's designs sold very well. Shortly after, he realised his company.

This leather artisan who takes pride in authentic Italian leather making process and craftsmanship draws inspiration from his surroundings. For instance, his design of special studs were inspired by the work of a blacksmith on metal.

The Interview

It is disturbing to see that some luxury Italian brands are resorting to chrome tanning process to achieve sales volume and cut costs resulting in poor quality products.

How does it make you feel and what are your views on this?

Since the beginning of my career, I have chosen to treat leather with vegetable tanning. This choice derives both from a deep respect for the material’s value and for the environment. Our bags are manufactured with full-grain 100% Italian leathers coming from the most valuable tanneries in Tuscany. Vegetable tannings combine with leather, and make it soft and resistant, waterproof and breathable at the same time. Vegetable tanning is a long and delicate process, the closest to nature , the most environmentally-friendly and the most suitable in joining appearance, versatility and uniqueness.

Many commercially mass-produced bags and accessories are made in Eastern Europe or China. Even selected luxury designer brands outsource their materials and manufacturing as well.

What is the reason why you still believe in making bags in Italy?

Producing in Italy is not only an entrepreneurial choice, but it also represents the strong connection that we have with our territory (the homeland and Italy), a bond that has always inspired and guided the company. Our bags and accessories are produced in Cesena, in the heart of the Romagna region, according to the highest standards of craftsmanship, taking care of each detail from the choice of leather to the creation of each model. Each production line expresses and safeguards the essence of the brand, maintaining the high standards of 100% Made in Italy quality and attention to detail.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Hand-stitching brand hardware logo to a leather bag

Have luxury designer bags lost their handmade appeal?

I believe that the choice of relying on craftsmanship to create one’s products depends on the brand’s DNA and designer philosophy, so it is not strictly linked to luxury. 

Editor note: Some luxury and designer artisan brands such as Hermès and Campomaggi still follow traditional methods of leather bag making which are deeply rooted in Italian culture.

Do you think hand-crafted handbags are easy to find nowadays? Why is that so?

Handmade bags are not easy to find but, in Italy, traditional leather making is still present. Therefore, it is easier to find hand-crafted creations with a great aesthetic value and a deep respect of the raw material in Italy.

How many years have you worked on leather?

I have been working in this field for 30 years and I have chosen cowhide leather since the very beginning: it is at the centre of all of my collections. In all these years I have learned to choose the best leather and to pay homage to materials through manufacturing methods that made me achieve a distinctive style.

Why do you choose leather as the key material of choice?

I choose leather because it is a live and reactive material, that requires respect. Leather has an autonomy and personality that must be taken into account when working with it and this is something I admire. You have to be good at using leather, to consider the way it responds to each single treatment and external element. It is a relation between equals.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
A designer's philosophy on life.

How long will a chrome tanned bag last and how long will a vegetable tanned one last?

The lifetime of a bag depends mainly on the usage. The difference between chrome and vegetable tanning lays in the way bags age. Vegetable-tanned leather absorbs time, it adapts to time going by, so it becomes more beautiful. My philosophy is ‘Time doesn’t take away, it enhances’, for everything in life. And this is true also for the leather that I use: time passing makes my bags more beautiful, because they absorb time, thereby absorbing more beauty and charm. Bags remain contemporary, in harmony with the times they are in. 

Advantages of Vegetable Leather Tanning

  • Bags last longer 
  • Environmental- friendly way to tan leather, sans use of chemicals
  • Eco-friendly - vegetable tanned bags can be recycled unlike their chrome tanned counterparts
  • Vegetable tanning is traditional method of producing and dyeing leather. This requires a certain skill set and craftsmanship unlike mass-produced chemical tanned leather hence the quality of the leather is better. 
  • Bags look better gradually with use over time, the leather becomes smoother and the colour of the bag turns warmer

The next time you think about purchasing a good quality leather handbag, think again. Would you support a designer brand that is unethical and without business integrity or would you rather purchase a piece of hand-made fine Art from brands build on heritage, tradition and culture?

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Everything is handmade and closely inspected at the Campomaggi leather crafting headquarters in Cesena, Italy, a two hours drive away from Florence.

All pictures courtesy of Campomaggi, taken by photographer Marco Onofri.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts