Italian Leather Tradition, Asian Accessibility
Real value is in people and nature. Money is just a medium.
After we have sold the beta version in Spring 2016, it took us more than a year to take the next step to production. There are valid reasons why.
We found that Italian leather manufacturing is a dying tradition.
The big brands as “G****i” and “P****a” are killing the leather tradition.
They cut the leather in Italy, send it to Asia for sewing, then send it back to Italy to sew on the label “Made In Italy”. They haggle the cost of manufacturing so low that it is not possible for the Italian manufacturers to survive for long. That’s the sad truth.
This blind leather craftsman closed his shop and sold all his tools and leather to an “avvoltoio”, those who seek faltering businesses and buy their life long leather collection for loose change.
There are a lot of Chinese sweat shops in Italy who do not pay their taxes and maltreat their illegal, underpaid Chinese workers. While some of them might be caught and closed down, they reappear back again. While the Italian leather artisans pay heavy taxes, these Chinese get away scot free.
Italian factories cannot compete either with China, Bangladesh or these Italian Chinese sweatshops. We cannot bring ourselves to work with them for their disrespect of nature and human lives. Yet, we cannot be correct and be priced right.
The markup for travel goods is Cost X 5 -10.
That allocates for a big retail mark-up (up to 2 – 2.8 times wholesale price) and allowance for sales agent commission (10%) and costs of a return guarantee (a high 4-7% for new brands).
The profit allocated is usually just half of the manufacturing cost, if lucky, and all marketing costs eat into the profit.
And it takes 3 collections before distributors order from a new brand, an eyeopener, when we participated in MIPEL.
If we want a lasting product that treats and pays workers right and does not abuse the planet, we simply cannot compete.
We also reject “vegan leather”. Because it has become a marketing term.
It usually is cheap synthetic plastic that will not last and end up in landfills. The term vegan leather was hijacked to make you feel good about buying cheap. And we don’t stand for BS like that.
A landfill where “vegan” leather goes to die.
We want a bag that gets better with age, like a trustworthy friend.
So this is what we are doing:
We partnered with an Italian tannery to do leather vegetable tanning (a more natural process) with strict waste management control to use hide food-by-product from the Philippine cattle industry.
We use this leather for production in Marikina, a beautiful town with a long standing shoe and bag making tradition in the Philippines which right now cannot compete with its Chinese, Bangladesh counterparts. (It is also my birthplace -Rowena).
We would like to invite you to learn about Marikina’s history in this poignant movie here.
The project is managed by industry experts with the help of the able leadership of the townsfolk of Marikina and the guidance of our government.
It took us a long time to set this all up and we are still in the process.
But we believe in doing things right and valuing human and natural resource as the real profit of our endeavor. It is far more worthy than one bag. It is a graceful journey- from us, to you.
We believe in grace.
Beauty of intention and execution.