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In Depth: Vegetable Tanning

Vegetable-tanned leather breathes as in nature. It is non-irritant, soft to touch, ages richly over time and biodegrades. The leather remains neutral regardless of the temperature, and does not retain sweat or odor, allowing FEIT shoes to be worn barefoot and get better with age.

Components used in leather tanning
Stack of vegetable tanned semi-cordovan leathers


FEIT leathers are developed throughout Europe with tanneries that focus on traditional vegetable and metal-free tanning. The tanning process gets its name from the tannins, contained in most vegetables, employed to transform a skin. Most of the ingredients used in the tanning process have been in use for the past two thousand years. Today, in order to expedite the process and to achieve a higher level of consistency, powdered extracts are commonly used. They are obtained mainly from three species of trees: Chestnut from Europe, which gives the leather a dark brown color; Quebracho from Argentina, which makes leathers flexible and creates a warm amber color; and Acacia from Brazil and South Africa, which imbues the leather with a rose–yellow color and a firm feeling.

Fresh hides are commonly treated with lime juice to prepare the skin. Sea salt is then used to remove hairs and preserve the skin, before the dyeing process begins. Codfish oil is used to finish the skins, giving the leather a rich hand-feel and a pleasant scent.


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