A special thank you to Allen Edmonds and Paul Grangaard for the kind words and taking the time to make the video.
Category Archives: 101
The State of the Market
Since 1905 it has been our mission, and our passion, to produce leather of the finest quality possible. This is a commitment that we put into practice in our operations on a daily basis.
Just when it seemed as though we had seen it all in the leather industry, a new challenge has presented itself. Hide prices have now reached historical highs. Admittedly, this is not a good situation for anyone. While we have all managed to move beyond the troubled economy of a few years ago and started to see encouraging signs of recovery, this is the type of obstacle that can potentially derail those efforts.
The challenge is that people expect fixed price commitments, and we respect and understand that. Hides represent the single largest component in the cost of a piece of finished leather. The reality is that with hide price increases of this magnitude there must also be movements in leather prices to reflect these changes. Accordingly, leather orders that are not covered by existing blanket orders will be priced at the date of the sale to reflect the present days market. It is our fondest hope that the market will regain some sanity. As hide prices come down, as they most certainly will, we will gladly deliver the good news about price decreases on our finished leather.
All of us here at Horween welcome the opportunity to discuss this, and we will continue to make it our commitment to work together to find solutions that are mutually acceptable.
Horween Leather Company
Office : 773-772-2026
By Request – What’s the Difference?
In a post a while back I asked if there were any topics that anyone wanted some more information on. Jason and Chris specifically commented that they wanted to hear more about Aero and/or their horsehide jackets. I’m going to try to deliver info on what seems to be a major distinguishing factor for many people in terms of leather jackets – horsehide or cowhide? This is also an appropriate time to explain the differences between the other types of hides that we process.
Return to the Roots
I would like to introduce myself as a leather technician, owner and co-owner of tanning companies Heller-Leder, Helcor-Leder-tec and Südleder. Outside of my daily business activities I am also president of the German Leather Industry Association (Verband der deutschen Lederindustrie) and of the ‘German Leather Development Group’ (Forschungsgemeinschaft Leder).
It is no wonder that I am very fond of leather and its image as both my parents’ family histories are connected to the leather business, meaning that I am the 4th generation of my family involved in leather manufacturing.
I want you to consider the following statements:
- Leather is a natural product
- Leather has specific characteristics which other materials do not have or not to the same extent
- Leather is distinctive
- Leather is valuable
- Leather arouses emotions
These five statements account for the image, the popularity and also the high demand for leather.
Myself, as a leather-guy and leather technician who has been dealing from childhood with this fantastic material do, however, see a huge risk to leather in the future.
During the 26 years that I have been professionally in the leather business this wonderful natural material has become more and more a product that is reduced to its technical characteristics and performance at the expense of its natural features.
The technical properties are certainly important, but should in many instances be an additional feature and rarely the main reason to use the material. To meet some technical characteristics we are in danger of destroying what really makes leather special, ie its naturalness, the outstanding touch and comfort characteristics compared to other materials, its distinctiveness and the emotions which it should arouse – and with all of that the real added value.
Why should I create a shoe lining leather that has an excellent perspiration fastness then apply a heavy finish on it to achieve good sweat rubbing fastness and thus negate the perspiration properties as the shoe is no longer able absorb the sweat? This is absurd.
Why should I use a car interior leather that cannot be differentiated with regards to comfort, feel or touch from synthetic materials? Automotive leather is now such a good technical product that it still looks brand new after five years while the car exterior shows its age. The natural look and touch is gone before being fitted in the car. It’s more plastic than leather.
Why should I buy a piece of furniture covered with leather that is resistant against all kinds of dirt and stains yet feels cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Leaving you sweating on it like sitting on piece of plastic foil? So much finish is applied that the natural appearance and handle is lost.
Why should I have an object made out of leather that has been stripped of everything that might be a sign of its naturalness such as hair pores, healed hedge cuts and bruises? The visual difference with synthetic materials has become blurred or lost (the differences in comfort and feel we have ‘killed’ by making the material meet ever more demanding technical specifications).
If this trend of viewing leather more and more as a technical product and no longer as a natural product with all its associated advantages but also with some disadvantages in order to maintain the naturalness, then we are running the risk of downgrading leather to the level of artificial materials.
In my opinion we are already going too far as the difference, depending on the leather type, in technical properties, is making leather difficult to distinguish, even for the experts, compared with synthetics!
Leather, once this happens, due to its premium price (hidden below huge amounts of finish in order to achieve the technical requirements) will increasingly lose more market share against other cheaper materials because nobody will recognise its value and, therefore, why should anyone pay more for it? Many hides simply don’t need to be corrected or buffed and can be processed with a natural grain intact. Natural leather is a premium material and can command higher prices. We should allow the leathers natural characteristics to show themselves.
Therefore, my appeal to you is to try new ways by returning to old values, which our customers in the North American furniture industry have done so successfully. Approximately 25 years ago ca. 90% of all leather used looked rather like a plastic cover but, today, aniline leather is now resurgent with all its advantages and also the few disadvantages …what a change!
Taken from LEATHER INTERNATIONAL, the link to the website and original article can be found here: http://www.leathermag.com/news/fullstory.php/aid/14512/Return_to_the_roots.html
Technique: Toggling and Drying
There are many processes that determine how a particular tannage will behave once the leather is finished into product. One of these processes is how the leather is dried. There is quite a bit of water used in the tanning process – descriptors like soak, float, wash, steam, bate, and pickle are evidence of that. Water is used to clean, dilute, deliver extracts and components, and buffer reactions and uptake, so management of the amount of water (and its temperature) throughout the tanning process is crucial.
Just as critical is how we remove that moisture once we’re ready to actually finish the leather (in the industry, finishing typically refers to a whole department that applies and adjusts color, luster, temper or softness, and general appearance). There are four basic techniques that we use – air drying, pasting, vacuum drying, and toggling.
Filed under 101
I reached critical mass in my office and needed to purge some of the paperwork and piles of leather cuttings that have accumulated over the past year. I finally acquiesced to the use of a file cabinet, which meant I had to go through that too. I found some pretty interesting files ranging in date from the early 1920’s to the 1960’s. Most interesting to me were the customer lists from the 1940’s.
Chromexcel. One of my favorites, and probably my single favorite if I had to choose one. The picture above gives some idea of how long the formula has been around (and this journal is full of different trials and doesn’t even contain the original, standardized recipe). Whether because it’s right, or because we’re just terribly stubborn, we’ve left the processes and formulas for many of our leathers largely unchanged. We have had to substitute some of the components that were traditionally used in small quantities – whale oil was replaced with another marine-creature derived oil, one that’s more available and not controversial.
The Leather that has 3 Names
One of my favorite leathers, that sees relatively little production, is an article that we call Huntsman – or Waxed Flesh or French Waxed Calf. I would define it as high performance suede, but it’s not suede at all. This leather is made almost exactly the same way as our Chromexcel, instead we finish it on the flesh (or suede side). This colors, waxes, seals, and lays the nap of the flesh flat.
Too Much Information: Goodyear Welted Footwear
From the July/August 2009 SATRA Bulletin, by Lynne Brent.
Filed under 101