Visit Vere Verto’s Age-Old Tannery in Northern Spain
When Paige Smith and Consuelo Chozas dreamed up Vere Verto, their cool-without-trying handbag line, they had lots of thoughts about leather-sourcing. “I lived in Spain for two years and knew the quality of the raw materials and tanneries there were among the best in the world,” says Consuelo. The duo looked straight to the family-run spots in the Castilla y León region that have centuries of experience, and, well, they were hooked. See why.
Consuelo: “We travel by train from Madrid to the northern countryside. This is a glimpse of the country with some hidden, castle-like buildings dotting the landscape. The town where we go was founded in 900 A.D., and the inhabitants are called ‘the skins people’ because of their work in leather. There are just over 300 people in town, and they all work in the leather tanneries.”
Consuelo: “We go to the tannery once a year. We’ve met amazing people with deep roots in the heritage of tanning. Here, you can see hides, which need to be stripped of imperfections so that you get smooth edges and surfaces. The machine next to this stack is in charge of that. The hides seen here are freshly shaven and ready for any treatments that might come next.”
Consuelo: “Our tannery has passed down from father to son for four generations. These bombos are the oldest machines on the property and are responsible for dying the leathers. They turn at different speeds, but as we learned, slow and steady is the the key: 48 hours is usually how long they dye leathers. This process uses local vegetation to dye the hides and uses no chemicals. The resulting vegetable-tanned leather takes in oils, sun, and scratches to create a beautiful patina on bags over time.”
Consuelo: “After dying hides, they need to dry for a few days. Every factory here has what looks like a dry-cleaning hanging system that slowly rotates the hides around the whole building.”
Paige: “We chose this tannery for its welcoming vibe. We bonded over wine, food, and an appreciation for craftsmanship. We learned that, for lunch, the people there mix 7 Up with wine, like a spritzer. It reminded me of a lambrusco. This is one of the owners shining a hide for us. The machine is incredibly fast and uses diamonds to shine up the leather.”
Consuelo: “We always find beauty in the mess, especially with these blue barrels. The hides in this room have just been cleaned and are salted for a stage of the curing process. All of our hides come from the food industry, so it’s by-product material that becomes scarce when the economy is not doing well.”