The first thing to understand about leather: it’s a bi-product. For thousands of years, humans found purpose for the hunt’s spoil, from food, to housing, clothing and tooling. While the processes and products change frequently, the principle for leather-workers today stays the same: we need to remain purposeful and efficient with our waste.
The meat industry processes roughly 30 million hides a year. After a few days, hides become legitimate bio-hazards. Tanners are not so much proponents of slaughter as they are recyclers Something must be done with these hides. Why not make something of use?
The best leather in the world comes from the healthiest animals in the world. The healthiest animals are best-fed, and spend most of their time existing in their natural habitats. This means their muscles grow the way they’re supposed to grow. It’s important to understand the difference between well-fed and best-fed, because most feedlot livestock are extremely well-fed. But their high-calorie, high-fat diets are packed with antibiotics, which not only impacts the animal’s health, but the health of anyone, or anything, interacting with the animal’s products, too. That means that feedlots develop unhealthy lifestyles for their livestock - and their respective products are the proof. Aston Leather seeks to find best-fed, free-range livestock, most of which can be found in the American Northeast.
There are a lot of different types of livestock, and the products from that livestock change depending on age, skin-care, bug bites, brands - really anything that physically happened to an animal throughout its life. Younger, healthier animals tend to produce the best hides, simply because of the tighter fat cells beneath the top layer of the epidermis. Like most animal skins, as the animal ages, those fat cells stretch and loosen. As a result, an older animal's hide lacks the same durability, flexibility, and beauty compared to a younger hide.
In the same way that not all livestock lifestyles are uniform, not all tanning processes are equal, either. Tanning refers to the process in which an animal hide's natural oils are removed and then replaced with longer lasting oils. Some leather is treated with chromium, which uses a lot of sulfuric acid, metals, and other chemicals that are harmful for the environment. These processes are popular in shoes, boots, and classic leather jackets - and for a long time, most hides were treated this way. But everything at Aston Leather is treated with vegetable tannins. Vegetable tannins are extracted from natural materials like plants and tree bark, which means that all products of the tanning process, from excess water to the hide itself, are biodegradable and eco-friendly. Vegetable tannins are key in creating a truly regenerative, long-lasting product.