It was a breathtakingly, beautiful morning in Florence today, well enhanced by a late wake up. After our hotel breakfast, we took a leisurely walk to the leather school. The school was founded after the World War Two in the 1930s. The school’s creation had the virtuous purpose of trying to give orphan boys a skill. The history of the the leather school is very important to the company’s culture; there is even a man who has been working at the shop for nearly seventy years! The leather school continues to be a family run business, which is another important part of the company’s culture. Once again, the supply chain of the store is different from most other stores I have seen before. The leather school is nearly vertically integrated, but not completely. The school makes their own purses, belts, and wallets on site. The leather school then sells their products in their own facility and on their website. Unfortunately, the leather school cannot be completely vertically integrated because of some of Italy’s regulations involving different animal skin types. Some Arab princes will request luggage sets made of exotic skins such as alligator or ostrich, so the leather school will import the leather from other countries to make the products. The leather school also does not hunt, kill, and skin the animals; rather, the leather school will go buy the hide from the local tenure. The near vertical integration of the supply chain that the leather school employs is essential in creating the various products to their high, unique standards. What is particularly interesting about this company is that every product is different. There is no mass production that takes place at the leather school, instead everything is made almost “one of a kind”. Every item is assembled by hand, although some of the purses need a stitching machine to create a sturdier standing item. However, some hand bags are created completely by hand, even with completely hand done stitching. This can make the supply chain of the leather store even longer, but well worth it since it makes the bag even more original. There is even a book with photos of unique bags so it can be assured that no other women in the world will have exactly the same bag. The supply chain for each product also varies, since different materials are used for even different styles of bags. For example, foam is used in a “fluffier” bag while a more structured model will be made with a special cardboard that is from a different supplier. The costs of the supply chain for the leather school also vary by material. Since some of the skins need to arrive from other countries, there are higher prices for those skins. In addition, some animals are just more expensive than other animals. Lamb skin and crocodile is a lot more expensive than simple, plain leather. Ostrich skin is also very expensive for leather because a flu outbreak among Ostrich’s caused a problem in the supply chain. The supply chain of the store is also one hundred percent authentic. There are no synthetic materials disguised as leather in the products, they will often use ingredients like olive oil and egg whites in production.
Although the leather school only makes leather products, the scope and variety of products are immense. They have products from things as small as a coaster to as big as leather bags and jackets. The leather is often combined with other materials to add a custom finish. Real gold is often used as a stamp. The leather is also woven in some designs to give the bags a more intricate look. The products are very detailed and no two products are exactly the same. The primary customers of the leather school come from far and wide in order to buy authentic, leather items. There are a variety of pre-made products sold in the store as well as the variety of custom creations. Even with the pre-made products, customers can still get their products personally stamped with 22 karat gold by the local craftsmen in house. Overall, the leather school was an amazing experience. I was happy I got the chance to visit, especially since I got lots of items from their gift store!