On the 6th day in Italy, we began the day by touring the Scoula del Cuoio (a Florentine leather school), and then proceeded to tour Pitti Palace. Scoula del Cuoio is the company that my group presented on before the trip so I was especially excited for this visit. Scoula del Cuoio is the top rated leather distributor in Florence, which buys leather from different companies and makes it into different products to sell to the public, making it a downstream supplier that is neither horizontally nor vertically integrated. Throughout the visit I decided to discover the steps of the supply chain that lead to a final Scoula del Cuoio product.
Scoula del Cuoio was founded in the early 1900’s by friars in order to offer apprenticeships to World War I orphans. It has maintained its traditional practices to this day, even with its supply chain. The supply chain of a typical Scoula del Cuoio product begins at the farmer that it’s bought from. The leather company buys this skin from farmers who use calfskin, deer, ostrich, alligator, and python. In order to maintain complete integrity, the company has sheets of both real and fake leather from each animal that they typically use, in order to teach the employees how to tell if a skin is real or fake. Most of the animal skins used are directly from Italy, however, there are quite a few skins that are imported from other countries, as not all of the animals Scoula del Cuoio use primarily live in Italy. The supply chain then continues onto a tannery from the farm. At this tannery, the skin is converted into sheets of leather with the color that Scoula del Cuoio requests. The next step in the supply chain is when Scoula del Cuoio acquires the leather from the tannery. This is the most complicated step, as the master craftsmen have to do many steps correctly in order to fully finish the leather items for purchase. To begin, the leather must be finely cut and put together through tools of the craftsman. There are many different practices that the craftsmen use to prepare the leather, depending on the type of product. One of these practices is using egg-whites to soften the leather, just by soaking the leather. The primary products the craftsmen make are everything from wallets, to belts, to bags, to jackets. After the products are put together by the craftsmen, they are often embroidered to the customers interest. This embroidery is made up of either yellow gold or white gold wrap on one side, and chemicals on the other side in order to keep the embroidery in place. The gold used in the embroidery is fine 22 karat gold directly from Florence. The leftover gold from the embroidery is then removed with cotton to keep the design in place. After the embroidery is permanently on, the leather product is finally ready to be distributed to the customers. The customers are often wealthy as the products of Scoula del Cuoio are relatively pricey, but the customers are everywhere from directly in Florence to tourists from all over the world. Scoula del Cuoio has many competitors in Florence, however it has maintained the top status due to a legacy that dates back to the early 1900’s, fine quality leather, and a successful supply chain. The company also beats out its competitors by recruiting the best possible students. It recruits students from all over the world, however many come from Asia today, as the production of leather is becoming increasingly popular throughout Asia. These students pay for tuition for 4-5 years to learn about leather making, and then usually find leather making jobs to keep outside of Scoula del Cuoio.
In my opinion, the leather making production of Scoula del Cuoio is among the best in Florence because of a top supply chain, that consists of many different components from all over the world as mentioned previously. I was also very impressed with the products, and I even bought myself a wallet, as many of my peers went on to buy other products. I believe that since Scoula del Cuoio leather is popular to consumers and since the prices are reasonable, they will remain at the top of Florentine leather for a long time to come.
One theme that fits with today’s visit to Scoula del Cuoio is value network principles. The products from Scoula del Cuoio require tanned sheets of animal skin, along with machines suitable for putting leather together. The sheets get to Scoula del Cuoio through purchase from different farmers and tanneries, and the machines also come from completely different companies as the leather school is neither hotizontally nor vertically integrated. The majority of safety and environmental concerns come from the types of animals that the company uses. Scoula del Cuoio prides itself in keeping real animal skin and they take precautionary measures to make sure the skin is real. The main issue with using real animal skin is the killing of endangered species. Scoula del Cuoio only uses a select few animals to keep top notch, and none of them are endangered. If any of these animals were to become endangered, Scoula del Cuoio would have to stop using them immediately or else they would face severe consequences from wildlife protection agencies. Another safety factor is making sure the quality of workers remains at the top. The workers must be mentally stable certified to deal with machines that make leather or else they could be hurt and the company could face liability charges. All in all, Scoula del Cuoio does an effective job in keeping workers safe, and to protect the environment. It was an amazing experience to see the school in person, and I am looking forward to more company visits down the road after our excursion to Verona tomorrow. Stay tuned!