Snake, Lamb, Crocodile: Artisanal Leather Crafting

by Brandi Stawicki

Tucked away in the urban maze that surrounds the Ponte Vecchio, there is a small leather workshop, called “Infinity Leather.” It’s a hidden gem attracting students, locals, and retailers alike seeking handbags, belts, and accessories made by hand with a meticulous attention to detail and a whole lot of love.

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We visited the 40-year-old family business to learn more about the leather industry, and were curious to know how such a company sustains itself. The leather shop is one of nearly 785,000 family businesses in Italy – and that’s 85% of all Italian businesses! Placing Infinity Leather within a larger business context shows how important artisanal work is in Italy. It is not just a frivolous venture, but one which supports individual families and the larger economy.

Going to a workshop like this also shows aspiring designers, such as my fellow LdM students, how businesses transform design concepts into retail opportunities. Getting an insider’s view of a business like this is amazing because, as Prof. Giulia Buongiovanni explains, you are able to see firsthand the entire design process, from the vision to the materials, to the tools used and the workmanship, which makes it all possible.

Today, we are lucky enough to do just that – we go beyond the showroom to see where the leather magic happens. We see the designs come to life, and are able to hold the cardboard templates and materials. We look at the giant sewing machines and leather presses and stretchers – all used to create the artisan products sold. The owner shows us discarded samples and explains the tedious design process: sometimes it is necessary to scratch an idea and start again from the beginning. Though the prospect of throwing away a design is scary for an aspiring designer, going to a business like this shows the benefits to trial and error. You gain a sense of what works and what doesn’t – something we were able to witness firsthand.

Next, we were led upstairs to a veritable wonderland of leathers – we saw and touched crocodile, snakeskin, alligator, lamb, and sheep, to name just a few. This is arguably the best part of the tour. Being able to touch such luxurious materials and see them in their raw form was fascinating. An entire crocodile skin was laid before us, both terrifying and beautiful. As if that wasn’t enough, there were also artfully ornamented gold leathers, the softest lambskin I have ever touched, and hand painted leathers. The owners explained how they individually purchase each material, emphasising the importance of always knowing who and where your resources come from.

The owners of Infinity Leather made compact the vast and complex design process – from sketching a handbag design on paper to making a tangible piece for retail. We understood the workmanship that goes into the creation of each showroom piece. So, definitely stop in next time you are in the area because you might just find a passion for leather making, or at the least your new favorite handbag!

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Brandi Stawicki is a Northeastern University student majoring in Anthropology and International Affairs. She is an 80s movie aficionado, world traveler, and cheese enthusiast. She writes for the LdM Fashion blog and is interested in pretty much everything around her. After graduation, she hopes to work overseas in film/TV production so that she can share her love of people with the world.