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In our supply chain, all production processes are continuously optimized to create a new circular economy model based on authentically sustainable high-quality craftsmanship.

Cowhide leather

In our supply chain we choose to use biodegradable materials and recover any resulting production waste.
Alongside our iconic vegetable-tanned cowhide leather, the new collections utilize new recyclable and compostable materials such as bio-tanned cowhide.

Cowhide, Il Bisonte’s iconic material, is a fine leather that undergoes a “vegetable tanning” process, an ancient process that uses tannin powder extracted from chestnut, mimosa and quebracho bark.

The tannin enhances the quality of the leather, making it supple and resistant to wear, while also releasing an unmistakable woodland scent and delightful golden patina.

Why it's sustainable leather

Our cowhide comes exclusively from the hides of animals reared for food consumption which would create serious disposal problems if they weren’t used.

In the vegetable tanning process neither chromium nor other substances which are harmful to man and the environment are used. The ban of toxic agents such as azo dyes, nickel and pentachlorophenol reduces the risk of intolerances related to the daily use of bags and small leather goods which are well tolerated even by those allergic to heavy metals. Thanks to its chemical-biological characteristics, vegetable-tanned cowhide leather can be easily disposed of.

Even most of the substances used in its leather-processing are reclaimed, processed and reused in other sectors. The hair removed from raw hides, for example, is reused in agriculture as a fertilizer, while the sludge from the purifiers is reused to produce bricks.

Types of cowhide


How it's made

Quality takes time and cowhide is no exception. No fewer than 20 days pass from when the salt-preserved raw hides begin to be processed to when they are ready to be used. The entire production process takes place within the tannery.

Once selected, the hides are first washed and rehydrated. Then they are put into drums, large cylindrical containers in weathered and watertight wood, similar to gigantic washing machines. Here, lime is used to eliminate hair and epidermis. The leather is ready for lime-removal, maceration and degreasing, which take place through numerous steps in different drums.

The cowhide is then processed with animal fats and treated with tannin and anilines, both plant-based, and then left to dry. After the drying period comes the finishing process: in order to optimize quality and appearance a fundamental process called “follonatura” is carried out. It is a dry procedure (without water) that uses heat to break up the inner fibers of the leather, making it particularly soft to the touch. During this phase it is decided whether to highlight a particular grain or make it more homogeneous to the eye.

How and why it's aged

Tanners repeat this all the time: in order to really understand the quality and authenticity of a cowhide leather bag or accessory, you have to put it to the test of time. Immediately after tanning, in fact, it is not easy to distinguish chemically-tanned from vegetable-treated leather. The only persuasive proof of its naturalness is its ability to age beautifully.

When all Il Bisonte cowhide products age they do not degenerate, even those that are dyed.

All our cowhide products age well without losing their appeal.

Its origin

The art of vegetable tanning has prehistoric origins, well documented throughout Tuscany. In ancient times, cowhide, thanks to its extraordinary resistance to wear, was mainly used to make shoes for shepherds and soldiers, and sacks for hunting.

The tanning process already had strict rules in place by the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. They had been established by the Arte Minore dei Cuoiai (Tanners Guild) Statute since the inception of the Arts and Corporations of the Florentine Republic. The statute was for master craftsmen who were heirs to the centuries-old process of mixing plant-extracted tannins and manually working and handcrafting leather.

Alongside and together with cowhide leather, Il Bisonte's creations have always used high quality fabrics: colored cotton and linen fabrics thread by thread; Casentino wool cloths produced with traditional nineteenth-century methods in the “valley of fabrics” between Florence and Arezzo; poly-cottons, as resistant as technical fabrics and beautiful to see and touch.


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