Vegetable tanned leather – what is it anyway?

Vegetable tanned leather: WHAT exactly is this and WHY do we use it for our products?

While browsing through our homepage, you may have come across the term ‘vegetable tanned’ and you may have asked yourself: “Vegetable? What does that even mean?”


Leather is one of the oldest natural materials

Leather has been used for centuries as a raw material for a wide variety of products. Due to the rapid perishability of raw hides and skins, humans began early on to develop a suitable method for stabilizing and preserving hides and skins. This process is called tanning. We know the preserved animal skins as leather.

Nowadays there are many different methods of tanning leather. The type of tanning process has a decisive influence on the quality of the subsequent product. The vegetable tanning process is a purely natural method of tanning leather. Instead of mineral salts and other chemical additives, as is often the case in the leather industry, the tanning agent is produced purely from vegetable “ingredients”.

The animal skins are tanned using plant parts such as tare pods, oak and spruce bark, olive leaves or even rhubarb roots. The tannins contained in the plants form the tanning agent. During the actual tanning process, the raw material obtained from the respective plants and woods (the tanning agent) is poured together with the hides into a pit filled with water. Over time, the skins are repeatedly placed in further baths with a higher tannin consistency. These must be changed regularly. The change of baths is extremely important, because otherwise the use of one and the same depot can lead to putrefaction processes and the skins would become completely unusable.

As this very abridged illustration already shows, the process of a real, purely vegetable tanning process is very time-consuming and can take several months. Due to the high expenditure of time and the associated costs, today only about 10-15% of the worldwide leather production is vegetable tanned.




Why do we use vegetable tanned leather?

In addition to environmental and sustainability considerations, haptic aspects and the specific characteristics of leather also play a major role in the selection of the leather we use. This is why we deliberately chose vegetable tanned leather for our CLASSIC LINE bags. Due to the gentle, vegetable tanning, the pores of the leather are not closed. One could say that the leather is still “alive” and lets a bag mature with its owners. The natural charisma of vegetable tanned leather and the special, unique grain of every single skin make each of our bags unique. Vegetably tanned leather becomes softer with every use and gets a special “patina” over time. The leather also forgives minor carelessness, as scratches and signs of wear and tear can be easily polished out with a suitable leather care product.

We recommend our Care & Protect leather spray, based on over 90% of natural ingredients such as e.g. olive oil.


(signs of use/little bit of patina)





(after treatment with Oberwerth Care & Protect)