Today we visited the unique Florentine Leather School in Florence, a center for artisans and aspiring craftsmen to practice and learn how to make leather products from scratch. The school has an upper level for the craftsmen to create original products to be sold in the store; artisans can create different versions of a product every time they make something if they chose to. This makes the trade anti-global because the products are unique and, the likelihood of having the same bag as someone else from the Leather School is small. On the lower level is the school where people come from all over the world to learn how to make the leather products, because in order to be a real artisan, you must know how to do each step of the process. It was very interesting to see the dynamic of the school.
To continue, the Florentine Leather School occupies a very specific role in the supply chain: manufacturing and retail. They take all of their inputs and create unique pieces by hand in their store. Some of their inputs include salpa, texon, and various animal skins for leather. The salpa is a material similar to foam that is put in specific parts of a bag or wallet to protect it. These parts of the bag are usually ones that could be most easily damaged. The Leather School obtains the salpa from an outside supplier as it is a necessary input to contribute to the quality of their bags. Texon is a hard, cardstock like material that is used to create more structured pieces; it gives the leather form and also preserves the leather from humidity. This is also purchased from an outside supplier. Perhaps the most important input, leather, is obtained from different parts of the world depending on what animal it comes from. Goat skin, which is thin and flexible, is purchased from suppliers in Greece and Italy. Lamb skin is similarly flexible and soft and is obtained from parts of Africa, which I found particularly interesting. Deer skin used for leather coats and is bought from Virginia in the US. The most unique skin we saw was the ostrich skin, which has small holes in it due to the ostrich’s feathers that have been removed. This is purchased by the leather school from South Africa. Calf skin is the most popular skin used for leather and is resistant and can be soft. They did not specify where this was from. Python skin, which is long and skinny with small, oval scales is purchased from Indonesia and Malesia. Finally, the alligator skin is bought from Louisiana. I found all of this to be very interesting; I had no idea there were so many types of leather. All of these factors of production come together in the manufacturing process, making the Florentine Leather School the manufacturer in their supply chain. Also, they then sell to their own store, therefore they are their own supplier and customer, so they are vertically integrated for part of the process.
In addition, the Florentine Leather School’s main product is leather products, such as purses, wallets, jackets, bracelets, belts, etc. The craftsmen and artisans use unique techniques to apply leather to any product possible. They use every piece of the leather possible to create goods, which is why bracelets are a practical leather product; very small leather leftovers can be used to make these. All of the different types of leather and the different sizes of leather can be used to create various products and allow the Leather School to have a vast selection in their large store. Also, the Leather School’s primary customer is their direct customers who shop at their store. They cannot use mass production as it goes against everything the school stands for: handmade products. They can only sell as much as their artisans make, which is a fairly small amount compared to what mass production could make. By having the direct downstream customer be exclusive to their own store, this makes the product more original and harder to obtain, which allows it to feel more special and unique to the customer.
In conclusion, the Florentine Leather School is one of the last of its kind; it is an institution that promotes creativity, originality, and craftsmanship. The Leather School utilizes the talent of its artisans to create beautiful leather products of all kinds. They then sell the products through their own store to direct customers, which makes them both the manufacturer and the retailer. They are somewhat vertically integrated. This unique school is something I believe the world should have more of, because they create beautiful products wholesomely through their hands, mind, and heart.