We started our first full day in Florence with a tour of the Scuola del Cuoio. The Scuola del Cuoio, a Florentine Leather school, is located in the heart of Florence and has been operating since the 1930s. The family run became a leather school when the friars recruited the company to help teach the orphans a trade, since there was a large number of orphaned children from World War II. This trade school became so successful that they shut down their shop downtown and worked primarily from the school. This success has allowed the company to build artisans and guilders from students who had no background at all.
The Scuola del Cuoio’s main role in the supply chain is a primary producer. The Scuola do Cuoio starts by receiving their tanned leather from their component suppliers, a tannery. The tannery receives the animal from its primary supplier in various regions, including goatskin from Greece and Italy, lamb skin from New Zealand and South Africa, deerskin from Virginia, USA, Ostricch from South Africa, Snakeskin from Indonesia, and Alligator from Mississippi, Nile region, or salt water from Australia.
We also learned that the exotic animals, due to their endangerment in the wilderness, can only be purchased if they were raised on an animal farm. For example, to purchase alligator leather, the alligator must come from a farm in Mississippi, Nile, or Australia in order to be allowed as leather in order to protect the animal. To ensure this, a tag must be included with the leather and a document must be created for the customer as well stating that this leather came from an authorized dealer and can be taken over the border (if necessary). This puts pressure on the Scuola del Cuoio to ensure they are choosing a reputable tannery. They must also choose a tannery based on how they treat their leather. If the tannery doesn’t treat leather properly, the quality of leather can be compromised. For example, if cowskin is not soaked in herbs and plants, it may lose its potential strength and compromise the overall cqualitl of the purse or leather product being made. Because this is so important, and because leather is so important(Goatskin is 2.5 Euros per square foot, Lambskin is 6-8 Eros per square foot, Deerskin is 12 euros per square foot, ostrich is 30 euros per square foot, calfskin is 6-8 euros per square foot, and snakeskin is 28-30 euros per square meter), the Scuola del Cuoio chooses a familiar tannery that they have used for a while now located in Italy.
Because the Scuola del Cuoio is a primary producer but is also a unique and custom school, Their primary consumer is clients with custom orders and customers visiting the leather school. They also have a store that has opened in New York City and an online website to purchase the custom goods. The company’s primary products are leathered goods, such as wallets, purses, belts, and clutches. These goods are cut, assembled, and finished all within the school by either students and/or artisans. Special guilders, such as Francisco, make custom designs on the leathered good as well with heated tools and gold strips. The gold is pressed into the leather with the hot metal tool and the excess gold is removed with cotton. The cotton can be sent back to the company that they receive their material from (another component supplier who gets the raw gold from a primary supplier), and the company will use a special technique to remove the gold from the cloth to use the gold again. This helps create a sustainable process because no gold goes to waste. Special techniques and materials, such as texon, help support the bag and are made of old leather scraps combined together. The artisans may use weaving techniques or hand stitched techniques by using tools similar to a fork to create holes for the handmade purses.
The Scuola del Cuoio was an incredible experience and I have a greater appreciation for leathered goods and the process leather must go through to become the purse I see in a store. The experience was a invaluable has allowed me to understand the supply chain even better.