The leather industry is a multi-billion dollar global manufacturing industry that manufacture the raw, finished, and processed materials utilized to create leather goods worldwide. Leather is one of the earliest manufactured goods worldwide, using the skins and hide of animals, which are treaded carefully, well cared for and often humanely euthanized. Leather is also one of the earliest traded commodities worldwide, with the largest export value of skins and hides exceeding $5.5 billion each year. It is traditional textiles that have been in use since biblical times. It is used in everything from shoes to grand fashion dresses, work wear and accessories for the super rich, luxury fabrics used in high end clothing, furniture, purses and handbags, and luxury leather goods for decorating and luxury accessories. Even the ancient Egyptians recognized the value of leather and employed it extensively in their day-to-day lives.
The uses for leather products have increased over the centuries with advances in technology. Early man discovered that tanning hides gave them a more durable hide that was easier to create comfortable clothes out of. Tanning leather for leather goods was a vital part of hunting and trading, as it allowed men to have stronger hides to prepare their game and to make longer coats and war outfits. Ancient China even recognized the value of using leather in making shoes as the Mandarins (Chinese accountants) prepared outfits and weaponry out of hides day lung da ca sau.
The earliest leather goods were footwear, primarily shoes that were designed for comfort and to survive the harsh climate of ancient China. But as civilizations grew and trade became more sophisticated, tanning became more popular, and leather was used not only for footwear but for armor and weaponry as well. Modern leather goods such as purses, wallets, belts, and shoes are still created from animal skins and are often crafted by hand, but new synthetic materials are often used. In recent years tanneries have begun using chemicals to speed up tanning and make leathers more resistant to cracking and premature aging. Although leather is no longer used strictly for clothing or other material, it still holds a place in our culture, as people appreciate the classic rugged feel of leather goods and consider them elegant and timeless.
The leather industry employs millions of workers around the world making leather goods from cow and buffalo hides. Much of this work is done by children working in unsubsidized farms, where they are given grain alcohol and water to dilute the leather and prevent it from cracking. After the animal has died, the hide is then soaked in chemicals, heated, and treated with tannin and sulphur to give it strength and color. Tanning takes about three months on average to make leather that is ready for use. This process is very costly because leather needs to be made often and is also very thirsty, so it is expensive to produce.
Today, many children in Third World countries earn their living manufacturing shoes, bags, belts, and other leather goods at home. They practice and perfect the trade by buying hides and paying skilled workers at reasonable wages. Many of these children start out by tanning their own animals at home but are encouraged by experienced colleagues to buy tanneries. Tanneries employ young men and women, some with primary education, who specialize in cutting, stitching, and preparing leather products. Tanneries employ almost exclusively women, leaving one man to manage the tanneries, clean the tanning booth, and keep an eye on the animal.
Leather goods come in a wide variety of styles including boots, shoes, wallets, purses, belts, and coats. Bags and wallets are especially hard to properly translate, even for translators who are trained in the basic skills of English. The best way to ensure that leather goods are properly translated is to hire a professional, well-educated leather goods translator. A leather goods translator who specializes in this area will be fluent in both English and the languages of your primary language. He or she will understand not only how leather is produced but will be able to translate the various symbols used. A leather goods translator will also have the skills necessary to explain to you the significance of the different leathers, cuts, stitches, and designs used in your leather goods.