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Five things to consider when purchasing handmade leather goods

Quality handmade leather goods are an investment but one that will save you money over time. Timeless, practical, sophisticated, stylish – and no two pieces will ever be the same. Just like its owner, leather changes and adapts, revealing greater depths to its character and telling a unique story with age.

The right piece deserves the same careful thought as the craft that’s gone into its making. Here are a few tips to consider ahead of your purchase.

Billy Tannery Leather Travel Pouch

THE ORIGIN

Reputable countries such as England, Italy, Spain and the USA are renowned for producing high quality handmade leather goods. The UK has a reputation for global excellence, and exports more than 80% of its leather to countries worldwide. It’s also a country with a strong focus on artisan over mass-manufactured products.

When considering your purchase, it’s important to note that some companies may take the origins of a reputable country and use this to fake-stamp their products. When considering leather goods, be sure to research the origins and backstory to how each piece was made.

With premium products, you’ll generally find full transparency behind the method and production process used. At Billy Tannery, we minimise our leather miles by sourcing and producing all of our leather goods in the UK. As a result, we reduce the carbon footprint of our leather and can also guarantee the origin of every component of our products.

THE TANNING PROCESS

Before leather can be turned into first-rate products, it must go through a complex tanning process. The way it’s carried out will often determine the quality of the product and how long it lasts for.

The most widely-used method, chrome tanning, is low cost and efficient; you can essentially process hide to leather in the space of a day. Chrome tanning does require much more careful environmental controls though, so if choosing chrome make sure to pay attention to the country of origin as regulations vary hugely.

Billy Tannery Artisan Leather

Vegetable-tanned leather is a more time-intensive process, requiring greater patience and ancient knowledge. With this method, the hide is soaked in vegetable tannins and treated multiple times over a longer period – from a week to over a year. There are now very few tanneries that have the capability to produce leather in this way.

It can be really hard to tell the tanning process from just looking at the leather, but high-quality vegetable-tanned leather will age beautifully, whereas chrome-tanned leather tends not to change over time. It’s vital to buy your leather goods from a reputable source so you can trust what you are getting.

Billy Tannery combines traditional vegetable tanning with modern leather technology, using animal by-product that would otherwise go to waste. We also only tan our handmade leather goods in small batches so we can really focus on the details.

THE STATEMENT

It’s good to consider what sort of statement you want to make with your leather goods purchase. Perhaps it’s an understated timeless piece you’re after, or maybe you want your choice to reflect your unique style and really stand out. Whatever it’s for, there are so many beautiful bespoke designs to fulfil your needs so have some fun seeing what’s out there!

Billy Tannery Green Leather Backpack

The right leather bag can be a powerful statement, with different purposes to each. An elegant leather briefcase may suit a more formal environment for occasions when you don’t want to carry your bag over your shoulder or wrinkle your clothes. In contrast, a leather backpack offers something stylish yet casual, with more volume and space to carry belongings.

Billy Tannery has an entire range of products in different styles and colours to complement your specific needs. Our goatskin leather also offers a unique point of difference, with a pronounced grain that varies within each piece, so each one will be as distinct as the person who owns it.

QUALITY OF THE LEATHER

Full-grain leather is the highest quality option you can find and will generally last the longest and have the most character. This type of leather has not been processed in any way through sanding or buffing, leaving the grain completely intact. If vegetable-tanned, this allows it to develop and transform a natural patina over time. It will generally look and feel robust, heavy and thick.

You can also try the water test to check its quality– real leather absorbs water whereas fake or low-quality leather will simply run off or leave a puddle. A leather shop specialist will be able to talk you through all of these aspects too.

Our Billy Tannery full-grain goat leather contains natural markings and variations, and a beautiful texture that differs with each piece. For us, enhancing what’s already there rather than masking it is the key to the highest quality leather.

CRAFTSMANSHIP

Quality handmade leather goods will weather a storm and last a lifetime. But leather isn’t the only material that contributes to a premium product.

Every piece will include various fittings or fastenings that will impact its longevity. Sturdy details are the difference between a product that lasts decades and one that loses its shine.

Billy Tannery Black Rolltop Leather Backpack

Stitching is one of the most important aspects to consider how well a product is made. It should be thick and heavy with no loose threads, a real sign the product is built to last. A quality piece will also have a burnish or paint around the edges to help seal and protect it so moisture can’t leak in.

Check that any buckles, zips, handles and locks on your item are also heavy-duty. Quality handmade leather goods will feel sturdy. The finish on any fittings or attachments should also be clean and smooth to ensure your piece grows old gracefully.

All Billy Tannery products are made in small UK workshops using solid fittings that won’t mark or come loose over time. Thick stitching seals our leather with strong British cotton lining whilst edges are coated to strengthen against moisture. A last layer of protection is then added with a delicate finishing wax.

Our designs are tailored to enhance the character of each piece of leather and we only add a delicate finishing oil for protection and subtle gloss. With all the details taken care of our aim is to always let our leather speak for itself.

A RESPONSIBILITY TO BE SUSTAINABLE

We must each play our part in reducing our environmental impact. Leather has been used for thousands of years in clothing and furnishings yet its mass production is no longer sustainable. Instead of being locally sourced, most leather circles the globe leaving a huge carbon footprint. Thankfully locally made leather products are a sustainable alternative.

Billy Tannery is revolutionising the UK leather industry. After discovering that thousands of goatskins were discarded each year, our founders began turning wasted food by-products into natural goat leather goods. This beautiful bark-tanned material has reignited British leather making, supporting local businesses and producers.

Each step of our leather making process is as green as can be, from our microtannery that recycles 90% of water to our refillable paper made from recycled leather scraps. Find out more about our sustainable practices at Billy Tannery.

In summary

When it comes to purchasing premium leather goods, remember to look out for:

  • Full-grain leather to ensure maximum durability
  • Strong, solid fittings and fastenings
  • Sustainable craftsmanship using local produce
  • Vegetable-tanned leather for timeless age and beauty

Ready to shop? From backpacks to card holders, take a look at our most popular high-quality leather products.


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