Leather products can be found in many stores on-site and online, but where do they come from, and who makes them? The leather factory is where most leather is made and sold, and I will answer some common questions regarding how the leather industry works.
A leather factory is a specialized retailer and distributor of leather goods. Leather factories clean, process, tan, and prepare leather for sale and manufacture into different goods like shoes, bags, and vehicle interiors. Leather factories are found all over the world.
Who makes all these leather products, and where are they located? Are there different types of leather factories, or are they all the same? Let’s explore leather factories and how leather is manufactured.
What Is a Leather Factory?
A leather factory is a specialty retailer and distributor of leatherwork and leather goods. There are leather factories all over the world that contribute to the leather economy. It’s all part of the leather industry that produces finished leather products, raw hides, and processed materials and performs the processing and tanning of leather hides.
What We’ll Explore
- Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
- History of Leather Factories
- Leather Factory Overview Table
- How is Leather Made in a Factory?
- Types of Leather Factories
- Where Are Leather Factories?
- Leather Factories in the U.S
- Are Leather Factories Environmentally Friendly?
- My Personal Research Into Leather Factories
- Helpful Leather Factory Insights
- Key Takeaways
Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions
It has often been said that leather factories exist because of meat industry waste products, otherwise known as leather. However, leather is more valuable than animal meat, and its sale actually helps lower meat costs.
A common misconception in regard to leather factories is that they pollute the environment with tanning and preserving processes. Leather factories are federally regulated to ensure clean air and water and proper waste disposal.
History of Leather Factories
Leather has been around since prehistoric times, but the industry only became a formal establishment in 1100 CE. Leather guilds in the Middle Ages worked together to share knowledge and practice processing, tanning, and dying leather.
These leather crafters created special tools for working with leather to improve the practice of leatherwork. Tanneries have been located in Egypt for over 5,000 years; however, the first leather factories did not start leatherworking until the early 19th century.
Leather Factory Overview Table
|Preservation of leather||Salting, drying, freezing|
|Preparation of leather||Fleshing, soaking, liming, splitting, pickling|
|Tanning||Vegetable extracts or chrome salts|
|Finishing||Dyeing, fatliquoring, protective finishes|
|Sorting||Inspection, quality checks, alterations, fixes|
How is Leather Made in a Factory?
Before it becomes a beautiful leather item, the material must go through several steps. The animal hide must first be cleaned and processed to prepare for preservation and tanning. The hair is removed, dirt is washed away, and chemicals are applied to the hide.
Sometimes, the hide is split to create different grades of leather (top grain, split grain, etc.). The hide is then tanned with chrome salts or vegetable extracts. After tanning, the leather is dyed, fatliquored (fats and/or oils are applied to the leather to soften it), and finished to create the leather material. In some leather factories, the leather is then trimmed, shaped, and made into leather products, including:
- Vehicle interiors
Type of Leather Factories
There are several leather factories, each focusing on a specific type of leather material, leather goods, or both leather and leather goods. Leather factories that produce leather material will create different grades and colors of leather to be shipped to manufacturers, clothing labels, vehicle makers, and more.
Some leather companies focus only on handbags or accessories, while others only make livestock harnesses, bridles, and saddles. General leather factories create a little bit of everything; specialized leather factories focus on a few well-developed and created leather items.
Leather factories have operated in the U.S. since 1818 and are highly competitive with similar factories overseas.
Where Are Leather Factories?
There are leather factories located worldwide, with China being the heaviest producer of leather goods. Leather factories will generally have a principal office or factory in one location then satellite factories across the state and/or the country. Locations are often in big cities and near bodies of water for ease in obtaining the water used in making leather. Other big leather producers include:
- South Korea
Leather Factories in the U.S
The U.S. is ranked number eight in the world for leather production, and this makes billions of dollars annually. Leather factories have operated in the U.S. since 1818 and are highly competitive with similar factories overseas. Skilled artisans and specialized machines are used in leather factories in the U.S. to create high-quality leather products that last for generations.
Check out this helpful video of a behind-the-scenes tour of American Leather Factory in Dallas, Texas, to see more of how their leather furniture is made.
Are Leather Factories Environmentally Friendly?
Leather factories have become more environmentally friendly over time. Like any other industrial company in the world, leather factories do create waste products. There has been a shift in focus to sustainability and environmental safety, affecting leather factories.
There is great usage of chemicals, water, and energy to create and preserve leather, according to researchers Omoloso, Wise, Mortimer, and Jraisat. Federal regulation keeps leather factories accountable for eliminating pollutants and harmful substances while keeping their employees, their products, and the environment safe.
My Personal Research Into Leather Factories
Many leather factories produce products across the U.S., but where are they located, and what do they make? I have compiled a list of the most popular leather factories and their most produced leather items.
|Tandy Leather||Fort Worth, Texas||Leather material and crafting supplies|
|Frank Clegg Leathergoods||Massachusetts||Bags, briefcases, accessories|
|Noah Waxman||New York, New York||Wallets, shoes, bags, belts, briefcases, gloves, jackets, hats|
|American Leather Co||Dallas, Texas||Bags, belts, wallets, dog collars, leashes, seatbelts|
|Timberland LLC||Boston, Massachusetts||Outdoor shoes and boots|
|Townsend Leather||Johnstown, New York||Hides, leather material|
Helpful Leather Factory Insights
Who owns Tandy Leather Factory?
The Leather Factory originated in 1919 under the founders Norton Hinckley and Dave L. Tandy in Fort Worth, Texas. It has passed through a few different leaders and purchases by other leather manufacturers through the years, becoming Tandy Leather in 2000. Janet Carr became the CEO of Tandy Leather Company in 2018.
What is the leather industry?
The leather industry is a sector of manufacturing leather goods that has been around for many years. It produces footwear, garments, bags, and more from the meat processing industry’s waste. The leather industry produces high-quality products globally, especially in China and India.
How to start a leather factory?
A leather factory starts with a business plan and a legal entity. Then there must be money financing, a bank account, taxes, and accounting. Licenses and permits follow this, along with building a brand. Equipment, office space, and supplies come next to prepare for workers, then a website with contact information. Lastly, a market strategy to get the leather factory up and running.
Where are the most leather factories?
Most leather factories are located in China, producing the most leather globally. Next are Brazil, Russia, India, Italy, and South Korea. The leather market is growing the fastest in India, while Italy produces the most leather in Europe.
- Leather factories can be found in many countries across the globe.
- Leather factories are federally regulated to be environmentally friendly.
- The leather factories in the U.S. make billions of dollars per year.
Leather factories make and sell many products, from leather hides to shoes, wallets, and bags. Many leather factories have been in business for generations and can be counted on to provide excellent products. From cleaning and soaking to tanning and finishing, leather factories put great work into their leather and leather products.
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