What Is Vegetable Leather Tanning?

In recent years, the mainstream leather industry has caused significant environmental concern around the world due to the chemical nature of the production process.  This concern resulted in research undertaken into methods of refining the manufacturing processes to reduce the harm caused to the environment. The result of this extensive research? Vegetable tanning.

Vegetable tanning is an organic form of leather tanning, which makes use of a combination of bark extracts, fat liquors and organic dyes.

Comparing Vegetable and Chrome Tanning

Vegetable leather tanning is actually a practice that goes back thousands of years. As proof of this, in 2008 a perfectly preserved leather shoe was found in a cave in Armenia, estimated to be 5,500 years old – 1,000 years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt!

This traditional method of leather tanning makes use of vegetable tannins from chestnut, oak or mimosa barks, and many other naturally occurring plant tissues. While this method allows the production of the highest-quality leather, its downside is that it takes a lot of time to do.  

Quality Leather Hides

In order to meet the fast-growing demands of the fashion market, quality was sacrificed for quantity, and faster tanning methods were invented by the mid-19th century. These newer methods made use of chromium sulphate, a chemical compound that both reduces skin decomposition by binding chromium salts to the collagen, while also reducing the production time dramatically.  

In 2019, chrome tanning is responsible for the vast majority of leather production around the world. The reason for this is that is as little as a day, this method allows the production of water-resistant leather than retains a glossy look throughout its “lifespan”.  The cost? The process uses chemical substances that are extremely harmful to the environment. Here at Mackenzie Leather, we’re committed to using only environmentally friendly vegetable tanning processes, and we never use chrome-tanned leather.

Leather Tanneries

Benefits of Vegetable-Tanned Leather

At Mackenzie Leather, we are dedicated to preserving the environment and using only eco-friendly vegetable-tanning process in our leather production. Although creating leather using this process can take up to forty days of soaking organic hides inside baths of concentrated tannins, it guarantees the production of leather that is rich in character, and will truly last a liftime.

Key benefits of vegetable-tanned leather:

  • Durability and resilience
  • Use traditional, time-tested production methods
  • Biodegradability
  • Organic smell
  • Develops patina over time


Vegetable tanning, while a more time-consuming process, products a far superior leather than any other methods. That’s why we remain committed to using only the most authentically produced leather available.

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *