The strong connection between man and leather is to be brought back to the origins of our existence. Starting from the prehistoric age the first manufacturings of this material were actually made in order to protect oneself from the cold, to shelter from the rain, or to carry liquids.
Leathers were obtained from animals which were hunted or bred for nourishment, and the characteristics of resistance and easy availability of these were immediately noticed. Despite the several qualities, leathers tended to decompose during hot seasons and to stiffen during cold months.
It’s still unknown if this happened by mistake or not, but it was found out that animals’ leathers could be treated so as to make them lasting and unalterable. At the beginning animal fats were used, then the smoking technique was employed (which later on became the tanning with aldehyde) as well as the curing technique, until when it began to be employed what we nowadays call the tanning with tannins (a substance released during the process of leaves decomposition, which has well-known tanning properties). Finally, between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, the chrome tannage began to spread. This last one besides being an easier process, actually considerably shortened the duration of leather treatment.
Between the 18th and 19th century the first tanneries were born in Arzignano. Such phenomenon is due to the position of the small town in the high part of the Chiampo valley (Chiampo is the river that crosses Arzignano and takes its name from the neighboring town) which is rich in water supply. This element together with the labour’s industriousness of the area allowed the city of Arzignano to become, with the passing of time, the world centre for tanning.
Moreover, during the last years, techniques have improved a lot. New substances and new machinery have allowed the tanning industry to convert the tanning activity into a real industry, turning a byproduct of the food industry into a valuable material that represents one of the deepest roots of our relationship with nature.