We all wish to get back after a trip to Florence and take home a memorable souvenir; however, deciding on the right leather jacket or bag is the best choice and could be a daunting task. Just look at the multitude of jackets fluttering in the breeze on the San Lorenzo market. San Lorenzo market, and you’ll be able to see the difficulty of shopping for leather in Florence. What can you tell that you’re getting authentic and of high-end quality local, made using traditional methods? What is the best way to determine the amount you’ll need to pay, and how do you tell if you’re scammed?
The options to purchase genuine leather from Florence are endless, including luxury boutiques, bustling street bazaars, private workshops, and even trinkets on the sidewalk sellers. Find out more about making sure you return home with a genuine leather item to cherish for the rest of your life.
A Centuries-Old Trade
Florence and the surrounding area have been renowned for producing high-quality leather for centuries. Prior to Industrial Revolution, preparing animal hides for leather was not regarded as a particularly savory work. In the medieval times of Florence, most of the conciliatory or tanneries were situated on the Arno to aid in cleaning up the unpleasant smells and messes which characterized the trade.
In 1300, about 1,500 shoemakers had already been employed within the town. A third were based within Oltrarno. Oltrarno neighborhood. Cobblers created footwear for local consumption; however, they also participated in the active export trade, which was the basis for the Tuscan international leather industry, which still flourishes to this day.
In addition to clothing, the leather experts were an integral component in the trade of books. They created parchment sheets of cured sheepskins. The covers made of leather were designed to safeguard the books and create an elegant and stunning exterior. The leatherworkers were also the first to develop methods for armor and ceremonial attire. They collaborated with saddle and tack makers to design costumes for horses for events and everyday use.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Italian leather industry increased to new levels. A Florentine known as Guccio Gucci, son of an expert in leather, decided to turn away from the family business when he was just a teenager. While working in a string of jobs that were merely a part of the Savoy Hotel in London, Gucci was a fashionable piece of luggage for wealthy guests. Gucci returned to Florence in 1921 to refocus his family’s attention on the creation of fine leather accessories and luggage for an international customer base that was wealthy. Gucci soon helped bring the leather goods from his hometown to global fame, being one of the best recognizable brands in fashion.
How Leather is Made
The process of working and tanning leather is a lot more complex than they were during the time of those unpleasant medieval tanneries along the Arno. The manufacturing and distribution of leather products in Italy is a remarkably complicated subject that touches on the history of culture, fashion economics, and the very essence of Italian identity. To understand this complex landscape that is Italian leather, it is helpful to view the business in terms of three levels:
* Industrial, This sector of the economy employs thousands of workers and is a significant factor in the Italian economy. A large portion of Italian leather bags, leather jackets, belts, gloves, and shoes that are sold in fashionable clothing stores around the globe are manufactured in factories located far from Florence. The hides are made in small – to medium-sized companies throughout Tuscany, and there is a cluster of these firms scattered across Florence and Pisa. The majority of the items that you can find in the leather shops or the pelletteries of Florence were produced in these small-sized industrial firms located in the Tuscan countryside and sold to shops through wholesalers.
“Luxury-branded”: Leather goods intended to be resold in boutiques of many of the most well-known Italian luxury brands within the fashion industry worldwide. The problem is that the process can be quite complicated because a large portion of the perception of value for the top luxury leather brands is in the choice and processing of raw material and also in the workmanship behind each piece. A lot of luxury brands subcontract some or all aspects of production to companies within the industrial sector, the same companies that make leather sofas and automobiles. They can outsource the purchase and processing of hides and also the cutting and sewing of jackets, bags dresses, skirts, gloves, and other products. However, most high-end brands also ensure that the items they sell are made by skilled craftsmen. Most of the time, it’s a good idea to consider these products as a mix of both artisanal and industrial production since the primary operation of these luxury firms is selling well-crafted quality, premium items on a massive amount.
“Artisanal”: Not the last are the individuals who produce artisanal leather. Florence is home to a number of these undiscovered masters of leather, and it’s worthwhile to find them for their exquisite pieces and the chance to watch them at work. The focus here will be less on the making of hides and more focused on the craft of cutting and fitting the leather, sewing, stitching, and finishing the work by hand. Today, hand-crafted leather manufacturing in Florence is focused on bookbinding and the production of small objects like boxes and desk sets. One such example you can see at Legatorio il Torchio di Erin Ciulla at Via de’ Bardi, 17. However, there are some leather craftsmen who make shoes, gloves, bags, and other accessories for fashion entirely made by hand. Our personal choice is the historic Madova located on the Via de’Gucciardini. It is 1/red.
How to Judge Leather Quality
Imagine you were able to look at an animal’s hide and look at a cross-section of it with a microscope. On the top, you’ll observe the pores of the skin, imperfections and scars, hair follicles, and hairs themselves. In the lower layer, you’ll discover a dense, densely woven tissue with overlapping fibers. Below, you’d find a second layer of fibers that is less dense and distributed in a more horizontal fashion. Nowadays, the majority of hides pass through machines that cut off these distinct layers. The quality of the leather is determined in the next step:
* Full-grain (piano Fiore): Full-grain leather is considered the finest money can purchase. It is the upper layer of the hide and typically has not been processed to remove still see marks, imperfections, and pores. Full-grain leather is sought-after because of its smooth texture and durability, its natural scent, and its capacity to develop a gorgeous patina with time. The primary term to search for is pieno Fiore (cuoio pieno fiore , also known as pieno fiore or pelle).
* Top-grain (parte Grano or cuoio di Grano): Top-grain leather shows its densely packed grain, or the patterning on the upper layer pelt; however, it’s been handed down to eliminate some imperfections. Sometimes Italians do not draw clear distinctions between top-grain and full-grain leather, and there may remain some confusion, even though top-grain leather can be highly regarded in Italy.
“Authentic” (vera theo or vero): Genuine leather is taken from the bottom of the hide. It shows no grain, even while smooth, rich in color, and possesses a pleasant smell. Suede is an authentic example of leather.
* Bonded (cuoio rigenerato): Bonded leather is the result of the debris from the leather-making process –leather dust shavings and pieces of excess material–that were swept up and then pressed into the factory by the use of various dyes, chemicals, and glues. Be careful with bonded leather as it is usually spray-painted to look like the natural grain of the leather. The smell of the leather will tell you what the smell of the leather is. The smell of a cow or Superglue.
Imitation of: If you want authentic leather, avoid imitation leather (imitation the leather). But, ecopelle (a more appealing-sounding name for similar things) could be an appealing choice for those who don’t purchase animal products.
How to Buy Florentine Leather
In the case of leather-based bags and clothing, there isn’t always as they appear to be on the surface. It is possible to find a reasonably priced bag in the streets that is of the same quality as one you find in a boutique that is high-end. Sometimes the same vendor could sell the same bag in a cafeteria, or an stall at market, at two different prices. Sometimes, a seller may offer both handmade and industrially produced items in the same spot.
If you’re looking to come home with a reputable leather item, you must be aware of a few tricks in Florentine shopping for leather. First, if you’re able to purchase directly from the manufacturer, this is the most reliable way that you know exactly what you’re purchasing. But in Florence, purchasing the leather direct from an artist is not possible unless you buy small, lightweight items such as bags, boxes, or change purses. The majority of clothing items are sold at small retail stores. If this is the case buying a product will be more significant than the place you purchase it. Make sure to separate the bag or jacket from the setting If you can, and concentrate more on the quality of the item.
Selecting Leather Goods
When you’re evaluating the quality of leather, ignore whether you’re at the bustling market on the street or a boutique that is upscale. Don’t let your shopping atmosphere fade away, and focus on your senses.
“Origin: First, follow your smell. The product should smell fresh and natural. Beware of any scents that resemble chemicals. These are typically used to treat hides and conceal lower quality.
“Suppleness.” It should feel soft, smooth, and soft, but not stiff.
* ColorThe finest natural leather that is brown or tan is able to stand on its own with no added color and reveal the natural texture and beauty of the leather. Dye colors, such as green or red, for example, can disguise lower quality leather. When the sides of the hide are not finished, it is possible to determine if the dye is on the surface of the hide or is absorbed throughout the hide.
Stitching It should stitch consistent and tight with tiny stitches sewn close to each other.
The general rule is that Florentine leather products aren’t inexpensive, but they are often good value when you consider the quality. It is best to purchase directly from the manufacturer and concentrate on small things that are portable–boxes, changing bags, eyeglass cases, desk accessories, albums–rather than clothes, which are more complicated and difficult to master. A lot of these items are entirely made on the spot, and their prices are usually affordable. They also make sturdy souvenirs and gifts that are easy to pack into your suitcase or are relatively easy to ship.
Don’t forget you’re Florentine makers are experts at making custom-made shoes. If you’re looking to purchase handmade shoes, Florence boasts unparalleled opportunities to not only leave with a stunning pair created especially to your specifications but establish a relationship with the person whose work and love were put into creating the most personal gift.
Here is a complete guide to leather shopping in Florence
Where to Buy
Florence is home to two prominent market areas that are bustling and popular for their wide selection of leather items. There is the San Lorenzo Market offers a range of street vendors and retailers selling leather goods. The gorgeous Mercato Nuovo is one of the oldest and was an open-air public market for centuries, it is brimming with belts, bags, and other leather products; however, we recommend that you keep purchases to a minimal amount.
Market vendors will go to great lengths to lure tourists in, keep in mind that the market is among the most difficult locations to buy a new item to buy leather in Florence. You will have to utilize your professional abilities to distinguish between high-quality and less expensive leather to make sure that you make the purchase that you’ll be satisfied with once you return home.
If you’re looking to make a better purchase, you should consider these places. You’ll not just be immersed in into the past of Florentine leather and tanned leather, but you’re also likely to acquire something that you will cherish as one of your most treasured memories of your travels:
Via della Vigna Nuova, 97r; 055/2399483
Dimitri Villoresi Bags
Via dell’Ardiglione, 22
Via del Moro, 58
Via G. Marconi, 82r
Piazza della Signoria, 10
Scuola del Cuoio
Piazza Santa Croce, 16
Via Guicciardini, 1r
Via Guicciardini, 16r
Via dei Ramaglianti, 6r
Via Sant’ Egidio, 31/r
Via Michelozzi, 17r
Cuor di Pelle
Via dei Pilastri 7A R
+39 3290965746 – +39 055 3880404