At Tusk, we understand the importance of sourcing quality materials — not just for our customers, but for the earth, too. We select our leathers from tanneries which have earned Gold and Silver ratings from the Leather Working Group — a group which has set environmental standards for tanners and which promotes sustainable and appropriate environmental business practices within the leather industry. Knowing the origin, we then choose our leathers in person, judging their quality by touch and sight, and always keeping the end product in mind. That means that from the moment we find our source material to the moment you take a Tusk bag, wallet, or accessory home, every detail has been hand-selected with the highest quality, intention, and respect for the environment in mind.
Roaming the prairies of the American mid-west, the American buffalo is the only bovine native to North America. Its hide and, ultimately, its leather, is markedly distinctive to that of the water buffalo of India and China, and is renowned for its strength, durability, and wonderful grain.
France has a reputation for offering the finest calfskin in the world. The country’s farming techniques help to make it particularly soft with a smooth, fine grain. French calfskin is durable and long-lasting and, when combined with the right finishing techniques, is a testament to high quality.
Building off of a long history of working with leather, today’s Egyptian farmers and tanners possess an ingrained skill for working with their native buffalo. Known for its thickness and incredible durability, Egyptian buffalo leather is equal parts strength and elasticity and a clear example of quality goods.
In a culture where the cow is sacred, many Indians use goatskin for their leather goods. Because goatskin can be split and shaved, it’s a lighter weight leather than its bovine counterparts and also less durable. However, some might forego durability for the incredible softness of perfectly finished goatskin.
New Zealand farmers have earned the reputation of turning out lambskins that, when finished properly, are supple and incredibly soft against the skin. Lambskin is not, however, as durable as other leathers — like the Indian water buffalo, for example — and so must be handled with more care.
Tanning and Dye Process
With records dating back over 4,000 years, leather tanning is the oldest industry in human history. Our prehistoric ancestors learned early on that using the hide of animals for footwear, clothes, and gear was essential to their survival. And they realized that if they didn’t find some way to preserve the raw hides, decay would set in and render the hide useless. What they discovered was the process of tanning — converting raw animal hides into supple, durable, and long-lasting leathers. Today, through processes like vegetable and chrome tanning, we’ve advanced the methods of our ancestors into more efficient and versatile practices. And, through modern techniques of dyeing, we’ve opened up the leather color palette from the neutrals of old to the rich hues and exploratory spectrum of today.
Founded in thousands of years of tradition, vegetable tanning is the process of using natural ingredients and tannins from the bark, wood, fruit, and leaves of trees — like Oak and Pine — to prevent the raw hide’s decay. Due to the natural ingredients used, vegetable tanning often results in warm, earthy tones of leather, and many find that the leather has greater body and firmness than its chromium tanned counterpart.
Chromium tanning, or “chrome tanning” as it’s more commonly called, is the most prevalent form of tanning today. The process relies on the use of chromium salts to preserve raw hide and protect it from decay. Though not as natural as traditional vegetable tanning, it is undoubtedly a much faster method and produces a leather that is softer, more flexible, more resilient in water, and more receptive to today’s vibrant colors.
The final stage of the leather tanning process is finishing, and, just as modern techniques of dyeing would have fascinated our ancestors, so too would the latest technologies in finishing. Using machines or the hands of dedicated craftsmen, finishes like polishing, ironing, plating, embossing, and tumbling can alter the look of the final leather product. Leather might be polished with a velvety wheel to create a shiny surface, or it embossed to obtain a three-dimensional print, or tumbled to create a more evident grain. Or, if preferred, the leather might be finished using chemical processes that coat the leather with a natural or synthetic spray to increase color saturation or shine. Whatever the choice, the finishing process adds the final touches to the leather’s transformation.
One of the oldest finishing methods, glazing is a process of polishing leather with a protein additive (like that from egg whites) and repeatedly stroking the leather to achieve the desired level of shine.
Typically used on vegetable-tanned leather, wax is applied to create a soft, pliable finish. It helps to increase resistance to water, and, since it’s worked into the leather and not just sitting on the exterior, it increases flexibility.
Tamponato requires the skilled and steady hand of leather craftsmen who hand paint leather by building color up layer by layer. Such detailed and attentive work results in a deeply hued and utterly unparalleled color.
Printed leathers increase diversity in design. Using heat and high pressure, the leather is stamped with a pattern or design particular to the designer’s wishes, making the leather unique in its final appearance.
How It All Comes Together
From raw hide to the Tusk bag, wallet, or accessory you’ve come to love, the journey of designing and making a leather product of quality is mapped through the dedication of the craftsmen and artists who make it possible. Hand-drawn designs, a family-owned factory filled with lifelong craftsmen, and hardware from artists in Italy and Japan — Tusk products capture a world of talent in each and every detail.